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Dogs Pick Up Scent of Escaped Inmates; Police Set Up Perimeter Around Bedding Site; Schools and Highways Closed for Hunt; New Tip Narrows Search; Carson on Gay Rights. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired June 11, 2015 - 13:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Brianna Keilar in for Wolf Blitzer. It is 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, 7:00 p.m. in Warsaw and 8:00 p.m. in Jerusalem. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks so much for joining us.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: The breaking news that we are following, new leads in the manhunt for two cold-blooded killers who pulled off a brazen escape from a maximum security prison in upstate New York. Sources tell CNN that dogs have picked up a scent on the inmates just three miles from the prison. Police also found a footprint and multiple food wrappers.

This is a significant lead but it's certainly not the only one because investigators are also actively searching in neighboring Vermont and well away in Philadelphia. That's where a cab driver claims that he picked up the fugitives this morning and took them to a train station before he called police.

In the meantime, authorities say they're holding off on a decision on whether to charge a prison worker with being an accomplice in the escape. Officials believe that Joyce Mitchell planned to be the getaway driver, but she got cold feet. And they say that she's cooperating and providing critical information to investigators.

We're covering all of the angles of this breaking story. Our Jason Carroll and our Polo Sandoval are on the ground there in upstate New York. CNN National Correspondent Deb Feyerick is in our New York studio. I want to begin with Jason. And talk to us about this new evidence that was found near the prison, Jason. What's the latest on this?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is significant, that is for sure. It was found just along Route 374 in a wooded area. You can see it is still closed off. It's been closed off ever since last night, about a seven-mile section. We are about several miles away from the prison where the out -- where the break took place. Dogs have keyed in on a particular spot where they believe Richard Matt and David Sweat had been holed up for a period of time. They found a shoeprint, multiple food wrappers, also possibly a boot as well.

And here is what's key about this, Brianna. They believe that the materials that they found are fresh which may lead them to believe that, perhaps, and I just say perhaps, Richard Matt and David Sweat had been in the area recently.

Now, how do you define recently? Is that Tuesday? Is that Monday? Is that even last night? That is still yet to be determined. But investigators are confident that the material is fresh so that the lead they have on these two is fresh as well.

For now, this section of route 374 remains closed. They're not letting nonresidents into that particular area. Last night, it was extremely tense when they shut down the section of Route 374 as they asked residents to stay inside their homes, keep their doors locked if they had outside lights on, to keep those lights on to help searchers with their search. That search right now very, very active. This is the most significant lead they've had to date -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Was that Cadyville that we're talking about where they're shutting down the roads? Tell us how this is affecting the communities there because, obviously, when you shut down the roads, when people need to stay inside, it's a huge impact.

CARROLL: One way it's impacted is the local school district had to shut school for the day, too difficult for the buses with this section of Route 374 being closed. Too difficult for the school busses to go back and forth so school district shutting down school at least for the day. It's been one of many chapters in the lives of the people who live in this particular area and Dannemora which is where the prison is located. Folks there really feeling on edge as they have been over the past few days, especially at night when it's theorized these two are on the move. This is just another chapter.

But perhaps since we seem to be hearing that -- and again I say perhaps, perhaps since investigators now have a strong lead, this will help, you know, some of those -- some of those people here in the community who have just been feeling on edge and just want the situation to come to a conclusion -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Jason Carroll for us in New York. Thank you.

And I want to bring in CNN's Polo Sandoval now. He's outside of the prison where all of this started in Dannemora. Give us a sense of what the police presence is like where you are, Polo.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, if you look behind me, you see several blue vehicles. Really, these are just a couple of the seemingly endless row of transport vans and buses that have been used by authorities to pretty much shuttle officers back and forth from that perimeter that Jason just mentioned. And you look at their faces, Brianna, and you can tell that they are confident that they could, perhaps, be fairly close to perhaps yet another very strong lead here, in addition to that very significant development today and the findings that happened only three miles from here.

And also, I would add to what Jason just mentioned and the feeling among the community here. Today's discovery, if anything, renewing some tensions, even some fears, according to what some of the neighbors told us here. [13:05:09] You see, after six days of no significant results in and around this area, many people here had just assumed that Matt and Sweat had moved on, had perhaps left town, left the state, or even -- maybe even left the country. Keep in mind, the border here with Canada only about a few miles north of here. However, now that this discovery is being made, the people of Dannemora, New York, now heavily concerned. They are worried that these two individuals could still be in the area. For law enforcement, though, that would mean a very positive indication that they could be very close to the last leg, perhaps.

KEILAR: Perhaps. And maybe they are confident. That's certainly something to pay attention to, Polo. But talk about the area around Dannemora. We're talking about a heavily wooded area and now we have a report that these killers are not really -- they're not outdoorsmen, right? Tell us about the weather conditions and what they've been up against.

CARROLL: You know, the weather conditions, Brianna, the first three days of the search were just terrible, heavy fog prevented some of the helicopters to be up in the air. Also -- or at least hampered the conditions -- the search conditions there. Also, on the ground, heavy winds, heavy rain. And then, yesterday, was perhaps the first day which we did not see any heavy downpours, a bit of precipitation. But nothing that truly hampered search efforts.

And now, today, really, the conditions seemed to be very favorable for officers to get up in the air. A helicopter just flew over just a few moments ago. That's an indication that officers will not be stopping anytime soon. The last thing I should mention, there are several camp sites around here. The landscape seems to be these rolling hills and woods dotted with several cabins. That has also been a concern for authorities, that these two fugitives possibly sought shelter in one of these places.

However, officials are worried that perhaps people that are camping may run into these individuals, so that's why officers are out in full force with fliers in hand, not only here in New York but also in the neighboring state of Vermont.

KEILAR: Yes, and the communities in both are on guard. Polo Sandoval there in Dannemora. Thank you so much.

I want to bring in Deb Feyerick now. We have all this talk about New York, Debt. But police are also keeping an eye on Philadelphia because of this tip from a taxi driver. What are police doing to check up on this? And how much credence are they giving this tip?

DEB FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we spoke to the Philadelphia police and they say that they did get a call about 6:00 this morning by a cab driver who says he picked up two men who looked like the fugitives that are on the run right now. He took them to the 30th street station there in Philadelphia. And then, he waited about an hour, an hour and a half, before he even called police.

Now, we spoke to other law enforcement in the area. They're not giving a lot of credibility to the fact that, in fact, these two guys made it to Philadelphia. They did check surveillance videos and it seems like, in fact, it was just a case of a mistaken identity. So, it doesn't appear that these two individuals made it as far as Philadelphia.

In fact, because their ride failed to show up, that was probably one of the only things that they didn't plan in this escape is what happens if their ride doesn't show? And so, a lot of really seasoned veteran investigators believe that they did not make it that far from the prison -- Brianna.

KEILAR: So, what about this search in Vermont? I think that investigators have thought the thinking of the inmates was, let's head north. There's going to be less police presence, less heat on the border with Vermont. How real is that -- is that search?

FEYERICK: Well, one of the things you have to think about, also, is that when they got out, you don't know what sort of awareness, geographical awareness they have. You don't know whether they knew they were heading north, whether they were heading south, east, west.

Again, how familiar they were with the terrain. The fact that they're now in the woods, these are not wilderness people. They've not gotten wilderness training. The fact that they actually left an area where they may have slept, you know, key clues pressed grass and pressed leaves, that also shows that they were not -- that they're not erasing their tracks, though they have been on the run for six days.

So, every single lead is being followed up. And authorities that we're speaking say they're looking for patterns. They're looking to see whether a certain set leads being called in at one time, what the sort of consistency is in there so that they know exactly where to put their resources and where to put people to investigate.

So, there are state police in Vermont that are very much involved in this. There are also people in Canada that are very much involved in this, in the event those two men actually are able to cross the border -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Deb Feyerick, thank you so much. And we're going to have a lot more coverage of this hunt for the escaped prisoners ahead. We'll be asking law enforcement experts about the likelihood that the two men are sticking together and really how that affects the search.

Also ahead, I'll be speaking with Republican presidential candidate, Ben Carson, about Iowa, the latest polls and his controversial comments on gay rights.



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: Breaking news. Joyce Mitchell, the prison worker being questioned by police has told investigators that one of the escapees, Richard Matt, made her feel, quote, "special." She said, nothing however about being in love, we are told. Mitchell has been cooperating with investigators. She has not been charged. This comes as we've also learned that police dogs picked up the scent of the two inmates just about three miles from the prison that they broke out of six days ago. Police also found evidence of where they may have spent the night. This included a footprint and food wrappers as well.

I want it to bring in our panel now to talk about this. We have Lenny DePaul. He's a former commander of the U.S. Marshal Service Task Force. And we have former FBI assistant director and CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Tom Fuentes, as well.

Lenny, given us a sense of the time frame. If dogs were able to pick up a scent, how much time could have passed since the men were where they were?

LENNY DEPAUL, FORMER COMMANDER, U.S. MARSHAL SERVICE TASK FORCE: Well, apparently, they -- the dogs did pick up the scent, a footprint, possible wrappings from food and what not. So, that's huge for law enforcement. It certainly tightens up their investigation a little bit if, in fact, it is them. I guess we're hoping now that these tracks are fresh and they've converged on the area. I know they have aviation support and certainly a very tight perimeter set up and the cavalry is onboard and doing their thing. So, hopefully, this comes to a peaceful ending soon.

[13:15:08] KEILAR: Do we have any idea how much time could have passed, Tom?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I don't think they expect it to be too long for the sense of being that fresh with all the weather.

KEILAR: Because the rain and everything?

FUENTES: Correct, with all the weather up there that would have washed away the footprint and maybe the scent. But if it's - if the dogs found a strong scent, I think they believe it's pretty recent.

KEILAR: OK, so we also have this report that these are not exactly outdoorsmen, right? These aren't guys who are really either equipped at the time - they thought they might have a getaway driver - to deal with the outdoors, nor do they have that kind of natural inclination and like. One of them may even have a bad back. He was taking medication, we understand, for a bad back. How much does this matter?

FUENTES: Well, it matters a lot because it indicates a strong desire for them to probably look for shelter. This case reminds me a lot - and I'm sure Lenny recalls - the Christopher Dorner, the first former L.A. cop that was located in the San Bernardino Mountains outside Los Angeles. He crashed his car and they had searches all over creation looking for him. They even did a search of a hotel room in Tijuana when there was a possible sighting and it turned out he never left more than about a mile from where that car was.

He found a home to break into and was sheltered in that house for one week, within sight of the police command post during that search. Later, the family came home early to this vacation home because they wanted to sell - fix it up and sell it. That's when he was discovered. Luckily, he didn't kill them. He did steal their car. He was spotted going down the road, chased. He dumped that car, hijacked another car and then eventually ended up in the cabin where he was captured, well actually burned up in the cabin when it caught fire.


FUENTES: So it's possible this is a similar situation. He's in deep woods. He's not an outdoorsman or a survivalist or - either of them. And, you know, find a house that maybe had an unlocked door, go in and make themselves at home in the meantime.

KEILAR: Very much a possibility. Lenny, when you think of that - you think of that being a possibility, but, also, do you think that these guys are still hanging together, and why would that matter?

DEPAUL: I mean, we sure hope they are. And he's right spot on with all that. This certainly fits with respect to the investigation. I mean these guys - if, in fact, they never got picked up when they came out of that manhole cover, they certainly - that threw a monkey wrench into the whole works. So, you know, they're out there. They probably miserable. It's been raining. They're hungry. And desperate people do desperate things. So they're bedded down somewhere and, again, hopefully they're together and this thing ends peacefully. That's what I fear, these are -

KEILAR: But if you - the tips or the clues so far show that it seems like they were sleeping on the ground, right? Do you think that they're trying to avoid cabins or being discovered because they think law enforcement would be look in a cabin that they could be stowing away in?

DEPAUL: I don't think that their thinking is right at all. I don't know what they're thinking. And it's not accurate, that's for sure. From hearing some things that are people on the ground up there - from people on the ground up there, they're messing up a little bit, and it's only a matter of time before they screw things up. And apparently it's - hopefully it's going down that road.

However, I wouldn't, you know, the public needs to know that just because they're on a pretty fresh lead here, they may very well have slipped through the cracks late last night or what not and they could be anywhere. So certainly if they stumble on to somebody who looks like these two guys in the Midwest somewhere, please call law enforcement because that's a - you know, anything could happen.

KEILAR: Certainly. Lenny DePaul, thanks so much for chatting with us. Tom Fuentes, as always, thanks for being with us.

And we're going to have a whole lot more on this hunt for the escaped prisoners ahead. But up next, I'll be asking Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson about his plans to make government more efficient through, quote, covert monitoring. What did he mean by that? You don't want to miss this.


[13:22:26] KEILAR: Presidential candidate Ben Carson says the push for gay rights should not be compared to the civil rights movement in the U.S. Carson says that his irritation over the comparison prompted this remark in a CNN interview with our Chris Cuomo in March.


CHRIS CUOMO, ANCHOR, CNN'S "NEW DAY": Do you think being gay is a choice?


CUOMO: Why do you say that?

CARSON: Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight and when they come out they're gay. So did something happen while they were in there?


KEILAR: In a Fox News interview, Carson said he shouldn't have allowed his emotions into the conversation and he explained why he said what he did.


CARSON: Quite frankly, I didn't remember any times when there were signs up that says, you know, everybody else here and gay people have to drink at this fountain or - I was a little irritated.


KEILAR: Retired neurosurgeon and Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson is joining us now on the phone.

I do want to talk to you about some of the poll numbers that we're seeing nationally and in Iowa, but I want to get to these comments about gay rights and gay marriage that are in the spotlight again. Can you just clarify for us sort of where you stand on this issue? I know you're saying that, you know, gays haven't been segregated when it comes to say water fountains the way African-Americans have been, but do you think that gay Americans are discriminated against, that they face discrimination?

DR. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via telephone): I don't really want to talk about the gay issue except maybe you could get the answer for this question. What position can a person take who has no animosity toward gay people but believes in the traditional definition of marriage that would be acceptable?

KEILAR: Well, sir, I mean, if you're running for president, I think it's fair to ask you this question. Part of being a candidate is to answer questions. Can you - can you tell us if - I understand if you're saying it's - it's not exactly the same, but people look at that - some people look at that and they say we're talking about two groups that have faced discrimination and I wonder if you think gay Americans face discrimination even if it's not at water fountains?

CARSON: I've made my opinion quite clear on this issue. I think the Constitution protects every single American. And everybody has equal rights. Nobody has extra rights.

KEILAR: Sure. But if you're saying it protects people from discrimination, I'm asking you then if you think gay Americans are protected from being discriminated against and do they face discrimination? Do you think they do?

[13:25:02] CARSON: Everybody should be protected against discrimination.

KEILAR: Are they - and are gay Americans facing discrimination?

CARSON: Can we - can we - can we move on to something more important? Is there anything more important to talk about?

KEILAR: No, you haven't answered my question. You haven't answered my question. Are gay Americans discriminated against? It's a very simple question. I'm just asking to you clarify your remarks.

CARSON: I just said, everybody needs to be protected from discrimination. Everybody probably has somebody who discriminates against them because they're people with small minds who think that way.

KEILAR: So you're saying gay Americans are discriminated against?

CARSON: I'm saying there - every group faces some type of discrimination. Christians face a lot of discrimination. I wish we would talk more about that.

KEILAR: Then so do you not want to talk about discrimination against gay Americans?

CARSON: I just gave you an answer.

KEILAR: OK, I think - I will say that I think you gave me part of an answer but not a complete one.

Let's move on and talk a little bit about some of the polls numbers. There is a poll by "The Des Moines Register" and it puts you - you're doing very well in Iowa, if we can pull up the numbers there so that we can see them. You have - you're at 10 percent there in first choice for president. You're really up there in the upper tier. Do you think that you can - what do you think it is that is driving your popularity there, and do you think that you can push ahead of, say, Scott Walker?

CARSON: Well, one of the nice things about the way things are situated in Iowa is you get an opportunity to actually talk with a lot of the people, to press flesh with the people. They get to see who you actually are, you know not some portrayal that someone else has given them. And I think that's - that works to the advantage of certain people, certainly to my advantage.

KEILAR: Then you think it's the retail quality of having that interaction with people?

CARSON: Yes, I think that's a very important thing. And, you know, unfortunately, it's not like that in all of the states. And, therefore, I think some of the early states where that is the case do play a very important role in the process.

KEILAR: I want to ask you about another topic that you commented on recently. You talked about having a - you said you were looking seriously at having a covert division basically amongst government workers so that they could kind of keep tabs on other government employees with the aim of improving efficiency. Can you tell us a little bit more about what you meant by that? How does that improve efficiency?

CARSON: Well, you know, in the private sector, things tend to run considerably more efficiently than they do in the government. And one of the reasons is because there is accountability. And we need to have accountability with government just as we do in the private sector. In order to have that accountability, it's important for their work to be monitored. That's what I'm talking about. Nothing more complex than that.

KEILAR: So you're talking about maybe - I mean I think of sort of how things work, even in news divisions. There might be a review process where supervisors or even peer reviews over someone's performance. But that, to me, sounds different than a covert division of people who, as you said, look like the people who are in this room and are amongst their co-workers and are essentially spying or keeping tabs on them. I mean, are those different things or do you mean the same thing?

CARSON: How better to determine the efficacy of what people are doing than to have those that you're supposed to be serving be able to monitor their work and report on it?

KEILAR: But a covert division, can you just explain what you would mean by that? Would you hire people to essentially be spies in the work place?

CARSON: And by that I mean - by that I mean - by that I mean they wouldn't necessarily know when somebody came in if that was somebody who was monitoring their work or if it was somebody whom they're supposed to be providing service. That being the case, my suspicion is that they would treat everybody as they might be somebody who's monitoring and that will improve efficiency.

KEILAR: OK. Thank you for clarifying your remark. Dr. Ben Carson calling in for us from Iowa. I appreciate you talking with us.

CARSON: My pleasure.

KEILAR: And coming up, a footprint and a food wrapper are among the new leads that authorities are chasing as they continue the hunt for two escaped prisoners. We have a live report from upstate New York next.