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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Hamas Wins Seats in Palestinian Legislature; Former Hostage Speaks Out; Hurricane Katrina Survivors to Blame For Houston Crime Wave?

Aired January 25, 2006 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, everyone.
There are mysteries and secrets tonight. And a life hangs in the balance.

The secret, where on earth is an innocent American woman being held hostage? And the mystery, how on earth can people do something so evil?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: As we wait for news of hostage Jill Carroll, tonight, another American who was kidnapped in Iraq reveals the story of his 10 months held in a mysterious hiding place and the secrets of how he survived.

ROY HALLUMS, HOSTAGE: Every movement, you don't know what might happen. You're still thinking, they could do away with me any time.

ANNOUNCER: After Katrina, a wave of evacuees to Houston, and now a crime wave there -- as tensions mount, are hurricane victims to blame?

And Randy McCloy, the only miner rescuers found alive at the Sago Mine in West Virginia -- tonight, on 360, more promising news about his medical condition.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: From across the U.S. and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.

Live from the CNN studios in New York, filling in for Anderson, John King.

KING: We begin tonight with what it is to be ripped away from your life, to be held God knows where by God knows who as the pawn in a political dispute or perhaps simply as a prize in a kidnapping for cash. Either way, it's ugly and dehumanizing.

It's also reality, especially in Iraq, where Iraqis and Westerners now live daily with the fear of being abducted. Tonight, Jill Carroll, the American journalist, is being held by thugs who have promised to kill her if their demands are not met.

The deadline was last Friday. An update in just a moment -- but, first, what she must be going through from a man who knows first-hand.

His story from CNN's Randi Kaye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Roy Hallums, it may remain a mystery forever. He may never learn all the secrets, who kidnapped him, held him for 10 months, and why. This is how most of us learned about Hallums' role in the horrible story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROY HALLUMS, HOSTAGE: My name is Roy Hallums. I'm an American national. Please help me in this situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: It was two years ago, three weeks before Thanksgiving. Hallums, at his computer, working as a contractor in Iraq, was snatched and grabbed. Four masked gunmen burst in, heavily armed. Any resistance, they said, they would kill him.

(on camera): Were you scared?

HALLUMS: Oh, yes, certainly, because, I mean, I had seen the videos before of other people who had been kidnapped and what had happened to them. And I thought, you know, am I going to live the rest of the day or is this it?

KAYE (voice-over): They blindfolded Hallums, drove him to a dark, filthy underground cell. We now know it was in one of the most dangerous areas of Baghdad, known as the Triangle of Death.

And, for three months, it was as if Roy Hallums had simply vanished. For those who love him, it was unimaginably painful. Where was he? What had happened? But there was nothing. His captors remained silent, until this last January.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HALLUMS: I'm please asking for help, because my life is in danger, because it has been proved that I work for American forces.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HALLUMS: They said that they wanted me to be emotional and look upset in the video. And, so, they said, to make me look that way and to help me, they were going to beat me before the video.

KAYE (on camera): And did they?

HALLUMS: And they did, you know? So, yes, it -- you know, it wasn't a good experience to -- to do that, you know?

KAYE (voice-over): Now, precisely one year after he was forced to make that videotape, Roy Hallums is home in Memphis, Tennessee. He invited us here to share the secrets of months as a hostage and the amazing story of his rescue, the fear, the isolation, the abuse, beatings and torture Hallums can't barely bring himself to talk about today. Hallums passed the time underground by planning travel adventures in his mind.

HALLUMS: It would take me one day or two days to plan a trip.

(LAUGHTER)

HALLUMS: And then I would start another one, because, when you stop, then you start having all these negative thoughts.

KAYE: He slept on a concrete slab, always blindfolded and bound with this plastic handcuff. Hallums spent much of his time laying down in the four-foot deep hole. They give him small amounts of cheese and goat meat. Whatever hope he had came from the fact they hadn't killed him yet.

(on camera): What did you go through, not knowing what they might do to you or what might happen to you?

HALLUMS: The first month was the most difficult, because everything, every movement, you don't know what might happen. And you're still thinking that, well, you know, they could do away with me any time.

You sort of become numb after a while. You know, you worry about your life every second of every day. And it just, you know, starts to wear you out.

KAYE (voice-over): The hostage-takers only watched cartoons on their satellite TV. He heard no news, no word of his family, no way to know they were working so hard to find him, that they had set up a Web site and had made public pleas on both Al-Jazeera network and CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When he -- when he mentioned that, you know, about his life, them ending his life, I don't know. We're -- we are just all devastated.

Please, President Bush, he needs your help.

KAYE: Hallums kept track of the days in his head. He knew weeks had turned into months. He listened as his captors poured fresh concrete over his hole to seal it. Hallums thought for sure he would die here.

HALLUMS: After six months, I was starting to question, you know, how long is this going to go on? You know, are they going to keep me a year or -- or two years? There -- there was no way to know. I just know, OK, I have been here six months. There's no end in sight.

KAYE: Then, by pure luck, coalition forces interviewing an Iraqi prisoner were told where Hallums was being held. He will never forget the pounding at the door. Freedom was not far away.

HALLUMS: I thought, well, maybe somebody's here to rescue me, but, you know, it's been 311 days. That would be too good to be true. That can't possibly be what it is. But they kept pounding on the door. And, finally, the door fell down. And a soldier comes in. He's got his fatigues on and everything. And he says, are you Roy? And I said, yes. And he said, come on, we're getting out of here.

KAYE (on camera): You hug him?

HALLUMS: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

HALLUMS: Definitely. Definitely.

KAYE (voice-over): By the time he was rescued, September of last year, Hallums had lost 38 pounds. He has gained much of the weight back, but, more importantly, he has gained his freedom, still today, never too far away, this patch given to Hallums by the soldier, then a stranger, today a friend who pulled him out of the darkness, the hole that had become his private hell, which, of course, is why Roy Hallums is telling his story now.

He is home and wants to somehow provide comfort to American hostage Jill Carroll's family.

KAYE (on camera): From the hostage perspective, what -- what do you wish that you could have told your family that you know that Jill Carroll is wishing she could tell her -- her family right now?

HALLUMS: Oh, well, I was just always hope that I could talk to my family and tell them all I loved them and cared for them and, you know, would do whatever I could for them, so they would know that one last time.

KAYE (voice-over): Hallums believes, right now, Carroll is wondering what her captors have planned for her and, like him, how much longer she will be alive, now that Carroll has been featured in her own kidnap tape.

HALLUMS: To me, it's -- the video is a good sign, because the video is number-one proof that she's alive and she's looked well.

KAYE (on camera): What do you think about the fact that, since that videotape aired and the threat of the deadline, 72 hours was made, no word?

HALLUMS: I think the 72 hours, you have to be concerned about it if you're the family, but not -- not overly concerned, because it could easily go longer than that.

KAYE (voice-over): Long enough for the kidnappers to get what they want or, perhaps, as Roy Hallums knows, for their victim to get lucky.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE: Roy Hallums's kidnappers were demanding $12 million, which they never got. What was really alarming to him about the Jill Carroll case is that her kidnappers, unlike his, are not demanding money. They are insisting on the release of all Iraqi women prisoners.

He says, if they wanted money, there's something to talk about. But, in the case of political demands, John, there really isn't, because the United States government does not negotiate.

KING: Well, Randy, more on that in just a moment. But based on his experience and based on what he has seen of these videotapes, what were his observations about how he thinks Jill Carroll might be being treated?

KAYE: Well, he thinks that she has a few things going for her. She speaks Arabic, so she can communicate with her captors. She has written very positive stories for various publications about the Iraqi people, trying to get their story out.

And that may work in her favor. Hallums believes that, because she is a reporter, they may have another reason to keep her alive, so she could tell the story of the Iraqi people, maybe even of her kidnappers.

I actually asked him if he believed she's still alive, and he says absolutely yes, there's a good chance she's still alive, even if her captors' deadline to kill her has come and gone -- John.

KING: Randi Kaye, a fascinating look at the trauma of being held captive. Thank you very much, Randi.

And what the kidnappers say they want is the release of Iraqi women held by American forces. Today, a military spokesman told CNN that five female detainees are scheduled to be released tomorrow. But the spokesman insists the move is in no way connected to Ms. Carroll's abduction.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING (voice-over): It has been 18 days since journalist Jill Carroll was taken hostage in Iraq and more than two weeks since we saw this silent video sent to Al-Jazeera television, showing Carroll in the custody of her captor.s

Her worried mother was the first to publicly plea for her release in an interview with CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "AMERICAN MORNING")

MARY BETH CARROLL, MOTHER OF JILL CARROLL: Taking vengeance on my innocent daughter, who loves Iraq and its people, will not create justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Earlier this week, her father read a statement carried around the world, but directed at her captors. JIM CARROLL, FATHER OF JILL CARROLL: Jill started to tell your story, so, please, let her finish it.

KING: And his words, translated into Arabic, were broadcast on Al-Jazeera.

J. CARROLL: I want to speak directly to the men holding my daughter Jill.

KING: But the kidnapping of this 28-year-old freelance reporter, known for her sympathetic stories about Iraq and its people, elicited an outpouring of support from some surprising sources. Several Islamic and Middle Eastern groups added their voices to the cause of freeing Jill Carroll, including Hamas, long labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. government, which said, in part: "Hamas is against the kidnapping of innocent people, of foreigners who are guests in the Arab countries, and those who introduce humanitarians services and help for the Arab people."

Carroll, on assignment for "The Christian Science Monitor," was kidnapped on January 7. She was attempting to meet with a powerful Sunni politician, Adnan Dulaimi. He wasn't there, but he also quickly called for her release.

ADNAN AL-DULAIMI, IRAQI ACCORDANCE FRONT (through translator): In the name of God, in the name of religion, in the name of mercy and all that is good in Iraq, I appeal to you to release this journalist.

KING: Her driver called it a perfect ambush. Several mean he described as clean-cut, well-dressed and armed with pistols swarmed around her car, then shot and killed her interpreter. A little-known group calling itself the Brigades of Vengeance claimed responsibility and, on January 17, said it would kill Carroll in 72 hours, unless U.S. troops freed all female Iraqi prisoners in their custody.

And, today, word that five of them would be released. But, even if that happens, there's no way to know what impact it will have on the fate of Jill Carroll. And, so, her anxious family can only wait and hope to appeal to those holding their daughter hostage.

J. CARROLL: Your story is one that can be told by Jill to the whole world. Allowing her to live and releasing her will enable her to do that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Some breaking news now just in to CNN -- word of a hostage standoff at a Bank of America branch in Exeter, California. That's not far from Fresno, just to the south. These live pictures are from CNN affiliate KSEE in Fresno.

We are being told that one person is holding five bank employees hostage. An eyewitness just described to our of affiliate what happened when he went into the bank. They said to him, something was wrong, apparently, a bank robbery under way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was transferring some money...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... at the bank there. And we walked in. As we walked in, nobody would take care of us. We just went to the Versatel. And Mary (ph) was there. And there were Mary (ph) and this other girl that was a little bit ways off. They were, like, putting money in plastic bags. And I asked Mary (ph), well, are you going to take care of us, Mary (ph)? And she goes, yes, I will take care of you. You know, and she took care of...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mary (ph) is one of the employees in the bank...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... that we understand is still in there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. And she took care of us in a -- in a few minutes. We sat -- we just stood there, and she took care of us. But it took her quite a while, because she was, like, putting money in plastic bags.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That account there from customer Joel Rios (ph) of the Bank of America in Exeter, California. Again, he got out to tell his story. We will continue to track this a little bit more on what we do know -- apparently, one person holding five bank employees hostage at that Bank of America branch in Exeter. That is the initial report.

Often, there is rough information, sketchy information. So, we will continue to update you tonight, as this goes on. But, again Exeter, California, is south of Fresno, south and east of Fresno, just to the west of Sequoia National Park, a small town in California.

We will continue to track this story, a bank standoff, a hostage crisis of some sort of in Exeter, California.

Moving on now to a quick look at some of the other stories we are following at this moment, starting in the Middle East. Exit polls show the militant group Hamas fared better than expected in today's Palestinian elections. Voters left the ruling Fatah Party without a majority in the new parliament, which may force Fatah to form a coalition with Hamas, a group the United States labels a terrorist organizations.

Some encouraging news for Randy McCloy, the soul survivor of the Sago Mine tragedy. Today, his doctors said he is no longer in a coma. Though still unable to speak, the 26-year-old is more awake, and is now able to chew and swallow a small amount of soft food.

In California, former President Gerald Ford is back at home, after spending a week-and-a-half in a hospital for treatment of pneumonia. The 92-year-old Ford is said to be doing well.

And, in Florida, a fiery crash involving a car, a semi, and a school bus has killed seven children, ages about 18 months to 15 years. Details still sketchy, but the children, all related, were in the car alone, no adults with them, the 15-year-old apparently driving. The semi smashed into them as they were stopped behind a school bus. Some of the children on that bus were injured as well.

Back to the hostage story when we come back -- we will hear from a friend of Jill Carroll, who knows her story from her point of view. He's been there, literally been there, and tells us next what it's about.

Later, the victims of Katrina bring in -- are the victims of Katrina bringing an ill wind to their new homes? We're talking about evacuees and crime.

You're watching 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICAH GAREN, FORMER HOSTAGE IN IRAQ: I'm an American journalist in Iraq, and I have been asked to deliver a message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Micah Garen was kidnapped and held hostage for more than a week in the summer of 2004. He's also a friend Jill Carroll's. And we are very pleased to have him on the program tonight.

We just saw a snippet there of the videotape you made when you were a hostage. What was going through your mind at the time? And I assume you were reading a very careful script.

GAREN: Well, this was actually the second tape. This was the end of my 48-hour deadline. So, when I actually walked into that room, I didn't know if they were going to kill me.

But, as soon as I walked in, the whole stage set had changed. And when they sat me down, I could see that -- that things were probably going to be OK. And the -- the -- the script they asked me to read was to say that the U.S. forces should stop the massacre in Najaf. And I -- personally, I tried to resist.

I tried to change the script a little bit. And, finally, I said, I have been asked to read. And, so, you do whatever you can to kind of fight back, but, you know, within the limits, because you know that they have the power.

KING: Well, let's discuss the limits. How were you treated, specifically when you tried to change the scripts? Beatings at that point or...

GAREN: No, but they -- they would threaten. You know, as soon as I -- I tried to resist at all, they would become very angry.

So, you -- you sort of knew the limits, and you just judged, you know, where you should stop.

KING: Jill Carroll is a friend?

GAREN: Uh-huh.

KING: She's going through an ordeal, from what little we know, presumably, similar to yours.

GAREN: Yes.

KING: What advice?

GAREN: Well, you know, when I see the video, I'm actually -- I am heartened, because I can see her being very strong. And, you know, when I see that, I know that she's probably doing very similar things to what I was doing, which is just focusing on keeping calm and trying to reach out in your captors. And that's the best you can do.

KING: Well, you know her. Tell us about her.

GAREN: She's just a -- she's a really wonderful person and very dedicated journalist.

When I was out there, she used to work all night long on her stories, and she -- she was really concerned about getting it accurate and really reflecting what people were thinking on the street. And that's why she went out to places that were dangerous, because she wanted to know what people were really thinking.

And, based on your experience, what advice would you give her friends and specifically her family? Do you think, in terms of their appeals, they're doing the right thing?

GAREN: Absolutely.

I -- I think they're doing the only thing that really can work, which is appealing directly to her captors, and then also getting the support of the Muslim world. And I'm amazed to see how many voices in Iraq have come out to support her. And that -- that's probably the best thing for her right now.

KING: Now, she was in Iraq on a way to an interview. You were in Iraq out in an area videotaping?

GAREN: In a marketplace...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: In a marketplace videotaping.

Would you go back?

GAREN: Well, not in the near future. For me, it's just too dangerous. You know, the type of work that you do on the ground like that, it just gets worse and worse in Iraq right now. And, at some point, I would like to, but not just in the near future.

KING: Describe your experience.

And since she was going to this interview, and men with pistols came up, shot her interpreter...

GAREN: Right.

KING: ... and kidnapped her, a similar experience?

GAREN: Yes.

Well, they -- as soon as they realized that I was a foreigner, people got very angry and there were men with guns. One person shot a pistol at my feet. They threw us in the back of the car. And, then, as my translator was trying to defend me, a man hit him in the head with a stick and actually broke his jaw. So, it's -- it's very easy to see how translators really -- they want to defend you. They want to help you. And it can put their lives in jeopardy.

KING: And did your captors immediately discuss their goals with you, their demands, what they wanted you to do, or was there a period where you had no idea what was happening?

GAREN: Well, the -- the first night, you know, when they brought us out to the marshes, about two hours outside of Nasiriyah, the captors, some of the guards talked to us about money.

But, then, the next morning, other guards came and said, that's not true. It's not about money. You know, it's about whether or not you're innocent.

So, things changed. And we could never really tell what was going on.

KING: Micah Garen, we thank you for your thoughts and insights on this tragedy, your own personal situation.

And, hopefully, we will have good news as well for Jill Carroll.

GAREN: Yes.

KING: Thank you so much for joining us.

GAREN: Thank you.

KING: Thank you.

And Erica Hill joins us now from Atlanta and Headline News for a look at some of the other stories we are following tonight.

Hi, Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi. Tomorrow, a Maryland mother will learn her punishment for putting three kids in the trunk of her car. The incident was caught on tape by a police camera in June. An officer saw Lanora Lucas put her children in the trunk. Now, when he pulled her over, she told him the kids wanted to ride there. Lucas is to be sentenced for reckless endangerment.

In Portland, Oregon, multimillion dollar yachts up in flames. A morning fire along the Columbia River destroyed three boathouses and practically everything in them. The cause is still under investigation.

The first winner of the CBS reality show "Survivor," a little bit of a loser today in court -- a Rhode Island jury found Richard Hatch guilty of income tax evasion. He will be sentenced in April. Hatch faces up to five years in prison. His lawyers, though, say they do plan to appeal.

And the self-proclaimed king of pop trying to be an Arabic woman? Today, during a shopping excursion in Bahrain, Michael Jackson dressed himself in traditional women's robes, apparently hoping to go unnoticed. But he is Michael Jackson, after all, so no such luck with that one. Other shoppers still recognized him. Photographers started snapping pictures. Jackson shouted, please, no, before fleeing the mall through the back door.

Obviously, a few shots were taken. And there's the picture, John.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Happens to you all the time when you go shopping, right?

HILL: Oh, all the time, yes, but not nearly as much as you get hounded.

KING: Uh-huh.

Erica Hill, thank you very much.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: The Bush administration wants -- wants democracy in the Middle East, but it can't be happy with the election results there today. A group the United States calls a terrorist organization has won almost half of the seats in the Palestinian legislature. How did this happen? We will have more on today's unsettling election.

Plus, we're following that horrible accident in Florida where seven children died and several others were hurt. We will get the latest when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Live pictures here from CNN affiliate KSEE in Fresno, California. We are keeping track of what we are told is a hostage crisis at a bank in the town of Exeter, California.

We are told, again, one person is holding five bank employees hostage at that Bank of America branch. Again, it's in Exeter, California. That's not far from Fresno. It is to the south and the east of Fresno. An eyewitness just described to our affiliate what happened when he went into the bank and saw a robbery in progress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was transferring some money...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... at the bank there. And we walked in. As we walked in, nobody would take care of us. We just went to the Versatel. And Mary (ph) was there. And there were Mary (ph) and this other girl that was a little bit ways off. They were, like, putting money in plastic bags.

And I asked Mary (ph), well, are you going to take care of us, Mary (ph)? And she goes, yes, I will take care of you. You know, and she took care of...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mary (ph) is one of the employees in the bank...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... that we understand is still in there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. And she took care of us in a -- in a few minutes. We sat -- we just stood there, and she took care of us. But it took her quite a while, because she was, like, putting money in plastic bags.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That account from bank customer Joel Rios (ph), who got out to tell his story -- again, details sketchy so far, but we will continue to track this story and bring you more as we learn more.

And now, what happens when a militant group gains power through an election? Do you applaud the democratic process or do you condemn the vote, because the people you regard as terrorists are now holding seats in the government? It's a tricky situation presented to the United States today, after Palestinians, in what observers call a generally smooth legislative election, voted in the militant group Hamas.

Hamas members won't in be charge of the government, but they will have a strong say in where the fragile peace process goes next.

Joining me now to discuss this, from Gaza, CNN's Ben Wedeman.

Ben, first, let's help Americans understand there. If American citizens don't follow the Middle East so closely, they might be thinking tonight, why would the Palestinians go out and in such large numbers vote for terrorists, put terrorists in the government?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CAIRO BUREAU CHIEF: Well, John, Hamas certainly has gained notoriety in the United States, and, of course, in Israel, because it was behind dozens of suicide bombings that killed hundreds of people.

But here in -- here in Gaza and the West Bank, Hamas is not just a militant or a terrorist organization. It's a group that's very much involved in almost every aspect of Palestinian society. They run social services, kindergartens, clinics.

They provide food for people who don't have enough. They provide other social services. So, it's an organization that does, in many respects, not just because of its attacks against Israel, but because of its social role, has a very broad base of support in Palestinian society -- John.

KING: Ben, it's Hamas's intent, its goal, its stated goal has always been the destruction, the elimination of Israel. Was that its platform in the election, or has it changed its tune?

WEDEMAN: That is still part of its official charter, the destruction of the state of Israel and the establishment of a Palestinian Islamic state in the land of what is now Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

However, during the -- when they came out with their election platform for this campaign, they really toned that down. That really wasn't part of it. And they do understand that, for ordinary Palestinians, what they want is better government, less corruption, less nepotism, better management of Palestinian affairs.

That is really one of the things that attracted so many people to Hamas, not necessarily this somewhat nihilistic long-term goal of destroying the state of Israel and establishing an Islamic state in its place -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So from your reporting, Palestinian voters sending much more of a message to the Palestinian authority in the long grip of power that Fattah has had, not so much a message to the United States?

WEDEMAN: Very -- it's very much a protest vote. Many people have their reservations about Hamas. They're worried about what they would do if they were in a position of power regarding women's rights, cultural freedom, freedom of expression, which they worry Hamas is not necessarily very enthusiastic about. But really, it is a protest vote against the Palestinian authority, which is dominated by the Fatah faction which many people feel has been incredibly corrupt, inefficient, incapable of running the affairs of the West Bank in Gaza -- John.

KING: Ben Wedeman in Gaza today for us on the fascinating results of the Palestinian elections. Thank you very much, Ben.

And back here in the United States, have the Katrina refugees worn out their welcome in Houston? The crime rate is up and so are the tensions, but are the evacuees to blame? 360 investigates.

And he's been called the miracle miner. Tonight, another step for recovery, perhaps, for the only man to make it out of the Sago mine alive. We'll have an update on Randy McCloy's condition when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: More now on a breaking store Roy tonight, armed hostage standoff at Bank of America branch in Exeter, California, that's south of Fresno. On the phone with us, Jaime Espinoza, he owns a restaurant across the street from the bank. Mr. Espinoza, tell us exactly what you are seeing now and how -- what you saw as this unfolded.

JAIME ESPINOZA, OWNS RESTAURANT ACROSS STREET FROM BANK: About 4:45, 4:50 p.m., there was a -- four patrol cars that pulled up, they came out of the car, shotguns in hand, a rifle. They surrounded the bank and for about five minutes, and then they pulled -- they (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and it's been the same way ever since. There's two patrol cars on the west side entrance to the bank, they've been there since this started. There's people on the -- I'm sorry, that was on the south -- on the north side, there's other people -- some more cops on the south side and it's just been -- they let two hostages out about an hour after it started and then right now, there's a -- hold on, there's -- there a -- cops are moving to the front door. There's a police officer with a rifle moving to the north exit of the bank.

KING: Mr. Espinoza, Mr. Espinoza, I want to ask you a favor. As you discuss this with us tonight, if the police are moving closer to the bank, are any movements at all, please do not discuss those in case those inside the bank are listening to the conversation. We don't want to interfere with the work of the police department tonight. But as this unfolded, you say 4:50 or so California time, obviously that would be 7:50 on the East Coast in the United States, was your restaurant open at the time?

ESPINOZA: Yes.

KING: And, did you close it or were you told to close it by the police?

ESPINOZA: We were told to close it by the police. We were told to shut down and tell our customers to leave. But the problem with that is a lot of our customers that we had tonight are parked in front of the bank doors, so they had to call relatives or friends to come and pick them up and they have all now left the restaurant. And their cars are still here for the time being.

KING: OK, Mr. Espinoza, we thank you for your help tonight and we may check back with you in a little bit. Please stay safe as you watch this situation unfold.

Thanks again to Jaime Espinoza. Again, he owns a restaurant just across the street from the bank were there is a hostage standoff taking place during an apparent robbery. We want to bring you now this report from affiliate KSEE filed just a few moments ago. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You just heard the officer mentioned we're being asked to move from this location. Again, at this point the situation remains the same, we've got five hostages. Now, behind me I do see representatives here from the Bank of America, haven't had a chance to speak to them, but they just arrived on the scene. Again, at this point, the five hostages have been confirmed as employees of Bank of America according to the gentlemen you were speaking with earlier, as well as members of Tulare County Sheriff's Department.

Again, just to reiterate, they did allow -- the suspect did allow a mother and child to be released, as well as a couple, that were inside the bank. We assume that that may have been Mr. Rios (ph) we spoke with earlier, Joel Rios (ph), who spoke to us a minute ago.

Now, again, this point they've got officers out here. Farmersville PD, Exeter PD, as well as Tulare County Sheriff's Department. As you can see, the crowd is continuing to grow here. At one point it seemed to grow down once they asked them to move out of the way, but at this point, again, the crowd keeps growing. I would guess more or less that there's about 200 people out here looking on. People, for the most part curious. We haven't really run into too many who said they've either friends -- it's a small community, as you can imagine, Exeter. A lot of these people don't necessarily know those inside the bank, but they do know someone that either knows that person inside the bank or is related to a person that's working in the bank.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: And from our reporting and help from our affiliates, including KSEE on the scene there, we are told the suspect in this bank robbery and hostage standoff has requested a vehicle. We will, of course, bring you more on this breaking story as the situation warrants, tonight. Now on to other news.

In the days after Hurricane Katrina, tens of thousands of refugees found temporary home in Houston and many continue to live there. But now the crime wave has swept through the city and the goodwill that greeted the evacuees is giving way to anger and accusations. CNN's Ed Lavandera reports on the rising tensions.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sergeant Jason Lau (ph) is on night patrol in Houston's crime plagued Fondren (ph) division.

SGT. JASON LAU, HOUSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT: Person with a weapon, possibly a Katrina evacuee.

LAVANDERA: Sergeant Lau says the crime rate on his beat is up. He also happens to work an area where the highest concentration of Houston's Katrina evacuees ended up. LAU: They're not the only ones committing, they're also being the victims of the crimes. So in one way or the other they're involved and it's more work for us.

LAVANDERA: Fondren is a stretch of large apartment complexes. So, when 150,000 evacuees needed a place to live, many ended up here. But this neighborhood is hardly a melting pot and more like a boiling one right now. Just ask Byron Givens.

BYRON GIVENS, RESIDENT: This right here is a perfect example of what I'm talking about.

LAVANDERA: That graffiti is painted on the wall near his apartment. Givens and his wife say they never expected this kind of reception in Houston and they're not accustomed to the sounds of gunshot and fighting that they now hear nightly.

GIVENS: I don't even let my kids come outside. That's not right. Kids should be able to play wherever they are.

LAVANDERA: The tension has been slowly escalating here. Fights have broken out in schools between New Orleans evacuees and Houston students, and now Houston police say Katrina evacuees have been the victims or suspects in about 20 percent of the city's homicides. More than double their percentage in the population. The Givens family wonders it is evacuees have worn out their welcome.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The hatred, just because you're from Louisiana, you got so much hatred. It's not even about color no more, it's about the state.

LAVANDERA (on camera): The Houston Police Department has just asked FEMA for help. The department wants almost $10 million to help pay for officer's overtime, to increase police presence in these neighborhoods were evacuees and locals are struggling to get along.

(voice-over): City officials also say another 400 police officers are needed to help patrol the streets. But every city official stops short of blaming evacuees for a recent rise in the crime rate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whether people come from Louisiana or anywhere, when you move in additional 150,000 people, you're gonna have some people with undesirable traits and behavior involved in that group.

LAVANDERA: Back on the streets of Fondren, Sergeant Lau (ph) and his officers hope that by walking the streets, they're helping diffuse the anger.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: Right now Houston Police Department officials have only crunched the numbers on the homicide issue and they say that they'll be working in the coming months to tabulate crime totals on other crimes like robberies or breaking and entering and other types of crimes. And they're afraid they're going to be able to use that number to be able to make their case before FEMA to get that extra funding. And as I was mentioning, they're afraid that perhaps that crime increase that they've seen here in the last couple months will also spill over into these other types of crimes. But, right now they say they need the help to kind of get things under control before it gets way too out of hand -- John.

KING: Ed Lavandera, tracking one of the sad legacies of Katrina. Ed, thank you very much.

And we want to update you now on a developing story out of Florida, an incredibly sad story. Seven children from 15 years old to just 21 months were killed in an accident today involving a semi truck, a car and a school bus. It happened near Gainesville. Scott Johnson of our Jacksonville affiliate WJXT is at the scene and joins us with the latest -- Scott.

SCOTT JOHNSON, WJXT REPORTER: John, what we know at this point is that the school bus was stopped here on State Road 121, somewhat north-central Florida. Behind it was a Pontiac Bonneville sedan filled with seven children ranging from 20 months to 15-year-olds inside. Behind them, a semi truck came up -- we're told at a really high speed and slammed into the back of that Bonneville with a very hard impact, killing all seven children inside that car and we are told the oldest in that car was 15 years old, had a learner's permit, but Florida law does not allow a learner's permit to drive without an adult in the car. None the less, all seven of these children died in the accident. The school bus in front of it had multiple injuries, too. Nine kids were onboard. Kids were injured, transported to the local hospitals, but we are told they will pull through, nothing too serious as far as the injuries are concerned.

But just a tragic accident out here. Things have been shut down on this road for around 6-1/2 hours and are expected to be closed six more while they clean up and get the wreckage out of here. This is a very small rural area where this happened, so a lot of people from this small town knew the people in the accident, are just pretty shaken up by it -- John.

KING: Scott Johnson of our affiliate WJXT. Scott, thank you so much for your work today. Get back to you if necessary during the hour, of course.

Safety-minded parents always put their children in car seats or belted in, but driving with their kids in the trunk? A new caught on tape incident has put this often fatal practice back in the spotlight.

Plus, the latest on Sago mine survivor, Randy McCloy, technically he's no longer in a coma. But what does that really mean?

And a reminder, Dr. Sanjay Gupta wants to hear from you? Send us your medical questions and we'll report on some of them. Log on to our website at CNN.com/360 and click on "e-mailing."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: You're looking at live picture here of Bank of America branch in Exeter, California, breaking news tonight, a Hostage standoff during an apparent robbery attempt. We are told, a lot of our information coming from, as you see, KSEE, our affiliate from Fresno on the scene, here, in Exeter. One man holding five bank of America employees hostage. We are also told the suspect has requested a vehicle. This, again, in Exeter, California, south of Fresno to the west of Sequoia National Park.

Two people in the bank were let go by the suspect, but five bank employees still there, still there tonight -- still there tonight at this Bank of America branch in Exeter, California. Again, we'll continue to track this development as the situation warrants. You see the map there, Exeter, California, a small rural community. One suspect, we are told, holding five bank employees hostage in this Bank of America.

Sergeant Chris Douglas joins us on the phone. He's from the Tulare County Sheriff's Department.

Sergeant Douglas, what can you tell us about the situation?

SGT. CHRIS DOUGLAS, TULARE COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: Right now we do have one suspect in the building. There are five hostages inside the building, they all appear to be bank employees. The suspect has spoken with the Exeter Police Department chaplain as well as the Tulare County Sheriff's Department hostage negotiator, he has been in constant contact with the negotiator. We are in collaboration -- are you still there?

KING: Still here. Continue, please.

DOUGLAS: We are in collaboration with the Exeter Police Department, as well as Farmersville Police Department is present. We have CDS present as well as the FBI.

KING: And can you tell us, Sergeant Douglas, we have been told from the scene -- reporter on the scene that the suspect asked for a vehicle. Can you confirm that?

DOUGLAS: I cannot corn firm that right now.

KING: Do you know if the subject is making demands or requests in those conversations with the police?

DOUGLAS: He has been speaking with our negotiator. I cannot comment on the items he has or has not requested at this time.

KING: And two -- we were told two people were allowed to leave the bank and the five inside are believed to be bank employees. Is there any indication at all that anyone inside the bank has been injured during this standoff?

DOUGLAS: I do not have indication that anyone has been injured. The suspect has allowed some of the hostages to contact their family by cell phone, so they have had contact with their families. KING: And Sergeant Douglas, you mentioned the suspect had spoken to the chaplain in addition to a negotiator. Was that at the police department's request or was that at the suspect's request.

DOUGLAS: I do not have the answer to that at this time.

KING: All right. Sergeant Chris Douglas of the Tulare County Sheriff's Department, thank you for your help tonight on this breaking story. We'll check in with you if we can get more information later. Thank you so much.

Now moving on. We've been conditioned by Hollywood dramas, but when we hear someone say the patient's come out of his coma, we expect that patient to be sitting up and talking. Sadly, so far at least, that's not the case with Sago mine survivor Randall McCloy. Today his doctor said that he can no longer be described as being in a coma, but in strict medical terms, that's not as much progress as you might think.

Earlier, to sort this out, we spoke with CNN senior medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Sanjay, as most of our viewers know, you're a neurosurgeon. I just want, first, your threshold reaction when you hear the doctors say after 21 days, I believe, that Randall McCloy is out of what they describe as a light coma.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, you know, coma is a general term, John. You know, when you talk about coma, it's actually graded on a scale of 3 to 15. Three you get just for showing up and 15 is absolutely normal. In his case he's starting to do some interesting things where he can actually respond to his name, as opposed to, you know, just opening his eyes spontaneously, for example. So, this is a good sign. But in no way does it really give us a sense yet of how he's going to be several months from now. You know, we always say this is measured in weeks, not days and months not weeks in terms of his recovery. He's still got a long way to do, John.

KING: Well, then let's be more specific about what we do know. They say he can swallow, but he can't talk. He can follow some commands. He seems to recognize his name. What does that indicate to you? Does it tell you that one part of the brain is perhaps removing more than other parts?

GUPTA: Yeah, it does. And these are important things, as basic as they may sound, when someone is able to hear their name and somehow execute a command based on hearing their name, that's a very significant amount of brain function. It means he's able, actually able to receive speech and do something with that. What we're not seeing yet -- and I'll point to s specific area of the brain here -- is this part of the brain here, in the left temporal lobe, it's called, is where you actually execute communication. You're able to write something down, spoken word, all of that comes from the this part of the brain. He's not demonstrating that yet. A lot of what he's doing, John, is still sort of reflexive, putting food in the mouth and he's swallowing. I'd like him to be able to do more than that, to give a sense of how he's going to recover weeks and months from now.

KING: And it seems from what you're saying that it's impossible, at this point, to say whether he could have a full recovery. And as you answer, does age have any factor in that? Many say because he's only 26 years old that is perhaps why, because of his youth, that he could survive 41 hours of exposure to carbon monoxide. Does age -- is age a factor in his potential to recover, now?

GUPTA: Yeah, absolutely. Age is definitely a factor. His brain was probably much more likely to be able to tolerate what is essentially a stroke-like event, John. He had a period of time when carbon monoxide kicked all the oxygen out of his bloodstream and he wasn't getting enough oxygen to his brain. That is what a stroke really is. Overall, though, you know, people like numbers. I talk to my patients all the time about how will you know -- at what point will you know that his recovery is complete. And really it's about a year and a half, 18 months or so, John, that he could still continue to have recovery. So you and I could be talking a year and a half from now at which point, you know, he could still be -- Randy McCloy, could still be recovering from all of this.

KING: Well, we wish him, of course, the best of luck. Dr. Sanjay Gupta in Atlanta. Thank you very much.

GUPTA: Thanks, John.

KING: When 360 continues we'll hear from a person who was briefly at the center of a hostage drama playing out as we speak. Also, we'll show you some videotape that will make you rub your eyes in disbelief. What were three kids doing in the trunk of a car locked up in the dark?

And later, it's been said, there hasn't been this much homelessness in America since the great depression. If that weren't bad enough, increasingly now, the homeless are subject to violent attacks. A terrible trend, when 360 returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Now you might think there's hardly any point being shocked anymore by what people are capable of doing. Even so, some things still do shock and make your shake your head. For instance, why on earth would a mother put her kids where the rest of us stow the spare tire. CNN's Kathleen Koch reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It looks like a normal traffic stop on a warm June day.

SERGEANT SEAN TYLER, THURMONT POLICE DEPARTMENT: Get them out of the back. Get them out of the back. KOCH: But then 37-year-old Lenore Lucas of Thurmont, Maryland goes to the trunk and out come her 9-year-old son, 3-year-old daughter, and an 8-year-old friend. Lucas puts the children in the car and Sergeant Sean Tyler begins questioning her.

TYLER: Why would you let the kids ride in the trunk?

LENORE LUCAS, LET KIDS RIDE IN THE TRUNK: They could crawl through there and they wanted to.

KOCH: The rear seats were down between the trunk and car interior, but Sergeant Tyler said he had seen Lucas put the children in the trunk in a video store parking lot and followed her to make the stop. It's not the first time a parent has stashed a child in the trunk of a car. A Virginia woman was arrested in July for allegedly having her eight and 10-year-old daughters take turns riding in the trunk during an eight-hour drive. Parents often blame an over-crowded car or say it's a form of punishment. But safety experts warn a trunk can be deadly for children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Their little bodies can not handle the heat like an adult can. They get hotter three to five times faster than an adult. They don't have that cooling mechanism that's fully developed yet. So in a very short period of time, you know, this can be fatal to little ones.

KOCH: Since 1980 at least 49 children, 14 and younger, have died in car trunks, including three boy whose got trapped last June while playing in a trunk in Camden, New Jersey. Experts insist parents must carefully supervise children around cars. In the Maryland case, the officer makes a stunning discovery.

TYLER: You have a "B" license, what do you do for a living?

LUCAS: Drive a bus.

TYLER: You drive a schoolbus?

KOCH: At the time, Frederick County, Maryland officials said Lucas had not driven for the school system in three years. She was convicted in November of three counts of reckless endangerment.

(on camera): At tomorrow's sentencing in Frederick, Maryland, Lucas faces up to 15 years in prison, but the prosecutor says he'll be seeking probation since she has no prior criminal record and has taken remedial steps, including parenting classes.

Kathleen Koch, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Parenting classes.

We want to thank our international viewers for watching and coming up on 360, new developments in a hostage standoff now unfolding in central California. These are live pictures. We'll have an update from local authorities and we'll hear from a man who briefly walked right into it.

Also, President Bush makes a rare visit to a super secret place. What he said about spying when he got there.

Also, a violent crime wave that's getting worse across the country. So, why don't we hear more about it and its victims?

And the hottest story around, we do mean hot, but is it something to sweat about? We'll let you know, coming up on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Good evening again, more than a dozen lives collide in a fiery crash. Tonight, a cloud of questions and grief.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Tragedy in Florida. A semi truck, a car, and a school bus collide. And seven children are dead. How did it happen? And why was one of the kids behind the wheel?

Why does this man say the National Security Agency is spying on him?

LARRY DIAMOND, HOOVER INSTITUTION: What I strongly suspect is that some of my e-mail communications, possibly phone calls, as well, have been intercepted.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, spy games and the guy next door. New questions about who your government is watching.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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