Return to Transcripts main page


Bombings Raise Questions in DC; Suspect's Wife Gives Statement; Boston Searches for Normal; When People Rise Up in Compassion; Has Syria Crossed a Red Line?

Aired April 23, 2013 - 12:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our special coverage of the Boston bombings. I'm Anderson Cooper reporting live from Boston this afternoon. Here are the latest developments in the terror investigation. A lot to bring you up-to-date on.

Police have released new surveillance photos. They say it's the bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, at an ATM. The photo was taken just after MIT Police Officer Sean Collier was killed and before the first police shootout in Watertown that would leave another officer wounded - another officer wounded, would also kill Dzhokhar's brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

We're also hearing more about what the suspect is telling investigators. A government source telling us the 19-year-old claims no foreign terrorist group were involved in the attack, that he and his brother were self-radicalized jihadists and that the motivation for the bombing was to defend Islam.

We've got reporters gathering new details on all of that right now. There's a lot to tell you about. We want to begin with our Joe Johns, our crime and justice correspondent.

Joe, let's talk about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, what he's saying, that his brother was the driving force behind the bombings. Obviously, investigators have a lot more questions about his claims and lawmakers in Washington have a lot of questions as well. What are you hearing from them today?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's certainly true, Anderson. And talking to law enforcement officials this morning, there's two steps to this. First, the question, of course, is, what exactly the suspect is telling law enforcement authorities? The second and related question is, how much of what the suspect is telling law enforcement authorities do they in fact believe, what's verifiable, what they can check out, or what he may be saying because, quite frankly, his brother, the alleged co-conspirator in all of this, is not available because he was killed, you know, on Friday.

So there's a lot for the law enforcement officials to do. And we just have to differentiate between what they believe the suspect is telling them and what they believe they can verify and what might be the truth, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, also, lawmakers want to talk to the FBI about their treatment of the older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, about their interviews with him before he went to Russia and any follow-up that they did or did not do, correct?

JOHNS: Right. Yes. And there's a whole list of questions there, of course, policymakers are asking. And we're trying to get to the bottom of just what really happened during, before and after the time when Tamerlan Tsarnaev went to Russia. A federal law enforcement official, for example, this morning, telling CNN, Tamerlan was not on a terror watch list or any no fly list. That was something that was up for debate for a while. But an official said that when the FBI looked at Tamerlan, there was no derogatory information found and the U.S. never deemed him a threat. The official said when the Russian government asked the FBI to look into him, a task force did it from March to sometime in June 2011.

The official said Tsarnaev was on something called the text database. This is a system run by the Customs and Border Protection Service. It looks for suspicious patterns and behavior. There was a misspelling of Tamerlan's name, apparently, by the airline, which would have led to his name being missed. This was a matter addressed by the Homeland Security secretary when she was before Congress talking about a proposal to improve the system. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it true that his identity document did not match his airline ticket? And if so, why did TSA miss the discrepancy?

JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: There was a mismatch there. By the way, the bill will help with this because it requires that passports be electronically readable, as opposed to having to be manually input. It really does a good job of getting human error, to the extent it exists, out of the process. But even under - even with the misspelling under our current system, there are redundancies and so the system did ping when he was leaving the United States.


JOHNS: By the way, the official said even when there's a hit in this system for noteworthy travel, it doesn't necessarily prompt anyone in law enforcement to take action.


COOPER: Joe, appreciate that.

We just got a statement from the law firm representing the widow of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who, of course, died in that shootout early Friday morning. Our Chris Lawrence is following that part of the story. He joins us by phone from Providence, Rhode Island, this afternoon.

Chris, what are the lawyers saying now?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Yes, Anderson, we're right outside the lawyer's off at Providence. And basically this all happened within the last hour. He came out and he said that Katherine Russell asked him to read a statement on her behalf. It basically talks about how she met Tamerlan, that they had been married and living together, and it also talks about how their family, she, her daughter and her parents, are all trying to come to terms with what's happened over the past week.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our firm is representing Katie Russell, as you all know. And we've been asked -- she's asked us to make a short statement to you. As you know from news reports, Katie married her husband in June of 2010. Since then, she's been living in Cambridge, raising her child, working long hours, caring for people in their homes who are unable to care for themselves. Katie grew up here in Rhode Island and has always remained close to her parents and sisters, as well as to her extended family.

She is fortunate enough to have the support of her loving family, and as they, too, struggle to come to terms with these events and the deep sorrow we all feel following the events of last week. Meanwhile, she is doing everything she can to assist in the ongoing investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The injuries and loss of life to people who came to celebrate a race and a holiday has caused profound distress and sorrow to Katie and her family. The reports of involvement by her husband and brother-in-law came as an absolute shock to them all. As a mother, a sister, a daughter, a wife, Katie deeply mourns the pain and loss to innocent victims, students, law enforcement officers, families, and our community. In the aftermath of this tragedy, she, her daughter, and her family, are trying to come to terms with this event. Thank you.


LAWRENCE: Investigators know that Katie Russell shared an apartment with Tamerlan in that -- a very small, cramped apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As the investigators try to determine when and where he may have assembled those bombs, they want to talk to her about what she may have known.

Now, we know from sources close to the family that she does not speak Russian, so she didn't always understand what was being said around the house. We also know that the last time she saw him was on Thursday, before she went to work. Apparently she left for work and thought that he would be home looking after their young toddler daughter, which is what he usually did, the attorneys say, while she would often go off and work seven days a week, sometimes up to 70 hours away from the house.


COOPER: So, Chris, she saw him after -- for days after the marathon bombings and says she had no idea that he was involved?

LAWRENCE: That's right. The word we're getting is that she only realized that he was a suspect the same way thousands of other people did, when they initially saw the news reports, watching CNN and other networks, broadcast those initial pictures and those initial video that the FBI put out that Thursday evening. We're told that that is when she realized. And before that, she had no idea of his potential involvement.

COOPER: If she was allegedly working during the bombing, who was caring for their little daughter, do we know?

LAWRENCE: We don't know if she was necessarily working during the bombing, but we do know basically that he had not been working full time recently and that she was working very long hours. They were living at the apartment. But that also family members were also there as well.

We also heard that she did not see Dzhokhar, the younger brother, as much as she saw other members of Tamerlan's family, simply because Dzhokhar would often be at UMass Dartmouth living in the dorm. So she saw other members of the family more than she saw interaction with Dzhokhar, who was only there off and on.

COOPER: OK. Obviously investigators want to learn as much as they can from her and will be talking to her more. Appreciate that, Chris. Thanks very much.

We're now hearing from the man who was allegedly car jacked by the bombing suspects and managed to get away. For a long time we thought he had actually been released by the bombing suspect. Now our affiliate WMUR actually got an exclusive off-camera interview with him. He didn't want to appear on camera. He didn't want his name used for his own safety. The alleged carjacking victim says he was forced into the front passenger's seat as one brother drove.

"They asked me," this is a quote, "they asked me where I'm from. I told them I'm Chinese," the man said. "I was very scared. I asked them if they were going to hurt me. They said they won't hurt me. I was thinking, 'I think they will kill me later'."

He said he told them that he was running out of gas, so they drove to a gas station. When one brother went inside to pay for the gas, the other went to the pump to actually pump the gas. The man says he realized that was an opportunity to try to escape. He jumped out of the car, ran across the street. The bombers drove off. And he says he was able to run into a gas station. Police were able to track down the car because the carjacking victim left his cell phone behind in the vehicle and though that they were able to trace the vehicle ultimately to Watertown where that confrontation early Friday morning took place.

Now, the MIT police officer the two bombing suspects are accused of gunning down, apparently never had a chance to even respond. We're learning new details about the death of Officer Sean Collier, 26- years-old. A source with direct knowledge of the investigation says he never had time to activate his emergency alert and he did not radio dispatch about the suspects. The source says it's not clear why the brother ambushed the officer. He was shot four to five times as he sat in his patrol vehicle. Officer Collier was laid to rest over the weekend. And as I said, he was just 26 years old. Boston is slowly taking steps to return to some semblance of normal, eight days after two bombs tore through the finish line of that marathon. Business owners and residents of Boylston Street are just starting to return to the area where the bombs went off. They're being escorted in over several hours today. The site is closed to the public.

I want to go to our Jason Carroll here.

Jason, you've been talking to business owners. What are they telling you?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a long road ahead for them and they're saying a lot of things about it. They're checking in at a convention center located just around the block from where I am now. Behind me here on Boylston Street, you can see, Anderson, it still looks empty on the street, but it's not about what's happening outside, it's what's happening inside those businesses as business owners and residents are being allowed back in today on a walk-through basis.

It's happening on a staggered schedule, starting at 10:00 a.m., one block per hour over a six-hour period. At this hour, we've got the streets of Dartmouth and Clariton (ph) that are being reopened for business owners and residents. At 1:00 p.m. it will be Clariton and Berkeley and so on and until 3:00 p.m.

Again, we met up with business owners and some residents that are collecting at the convention center nearby. That's where they're checking in so they can be escorted back to their properties and to their businesses. And, Anderson, some of the business owners that we talked to talked about really the excitement about trying to get back into their business, trying to get back onto their feet, trying to get back into a schedule, while others talked about the reality that they just can't seem to shake of being so close to the bombing when it happened.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's definitely a step in the right direction. We anticipated for a while. Every day goes by and we're really not sure what's going on. But today we get to go in before the police open up to the public, to clean up, you know, and do what we need to do to get ready.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For us and our business, it's really about, how do we get back to Boston, how do we band together, how do we help those that were seriously injured that are going to have life-long struggles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've had a tough time, you know? I mean, I had a son - I had a son that works with me that goes to school and we have walked outside two seconds before the bombing. I had envelopes in my hand for him to mail at the bomb site, the mailbox. And he said, dad, can we go? And I looked at the crowd of people there and I said, OK, I'll just mail them out when we leave. So I just feel very lucky and, you know, and, you know, it's just one of those days. It's very emotional.


CARROLL: I think he said it best, Anderson, still a lot of emotion out here for these residents, still a lot of emotion for the business owners as well. Again, but a long road ahead. Things are starting to get back to normal one block at a time.


COOPER: Yes. Jason, thanks.

I want to talk to Mark Hagopian. He's the co-owner of the CharlesMark Hotel. It's in front of - or really just feet from where the first explosion happened.

Thanks so much for being with us.


COOPER: Your hotel is still, obviously, closed down. You're going to be able to get back to the hotel today?

HAGOPIAN: At 2:00 we're going to be escorted back with essential employees.

COOPER: Do you have a sense of how soon you'll be able to reopen?

HAGOPIAN: No. We could be ready in 24 hours, but we haven't got the go-ahead from the city yet.

COOPER: And you were there that day. What did you see?

HAGOPIAN: I was on our patio, which is about 30 or 40 feet from where the first bomb went off. And when the bomb exploded, everyone was in a -- sort of a state of shock. And we looked at each other. And then when the second bomb went off, people started to cry and yell and they started to run toward the inside of the hotel to get away.

And about 30 seconds after that, I went out to the patio, out to the sidewalk with two managers, and it was a horrible scene. People were lying all over the place. They were bleeding. Fortunately, that quickly, there was two or three people attending to each person that was down. And so my two managers started to tear down the scaffolding. Everybody seemed to understand that people needed access to the people who were down.

And I took a video because of training and first aid, but I saw that everyone was attended to. I didn't think I could help much more on that. So about 60 seconds after we were out there, some federal people started to yell at us, get out, get out, get out. There could be more bombs. And I turned and on my video you can hear me say, I don't think it's safe to be here. And one of my employees said, yes, you're right. So we went back into the building and we escorted everybody out. Which didn't take long at all, about two minutes.

COOPER: To get everyone out of the hotel?


COOPER: How do you think the city's doing in terms of bouncing back?

HAGOPIAN: I think -- I broke this down to two different parts. One is what everybody needs to do to get their businesses back and running. It's like being at war and you're a general. We still need to make a lot of moves.

I made a list. They asked me to bring it on, of ten things we need to do. And the other side, the emotional side, we were scared. We cried. We were angry. We felt a lot of pride.

And so you have to balance those two things. So I think that everybody's feeling better but when we go home at night we're thankful that we're still here and we're understanding how precious life is.

A couple of my guys have families and they're more affected than people that don't because they have people counting on them if they had gone away, it's "what-if."

COOPER: What's it like for you get back inside today, too?

HAGOPIAN: Emotionally, I'm fine. I feel like I said we're at war and I have 75 employees and we need to take care of them. We need to get -- the steps are we get cleaned up and get to our guests and we contact everybody and we talk to each employee individually because we're not experienced at this in saying, how are you doing, how can we help you? Do you need time off? Do you want to be with us?

Everybody has come together and stayed together at the hotel and they're bonding and hugging and they're telling each other that they love each other and how proud they are of each other. It's touching.

COOPER: It's going to be a difficult days ahead. Mark, thank you very much for being with us.

To help those affected by the Boston bombings visit A lot of information about other group there's which are helping. You can donate, too, from the first responders to the witness whose became heroes in times of tragedy.

We've seen this time and time, people rise up, perform amazing acts of kindness and compassion. We'll talk about that ahead.


COOPER: Welcome back to our special coverage from Boston. We're going to keep bringing you all of the latest on the investigations of the marathon bombings. We want to talk about the good things that we have seen over this last week.

This is Laura Wellington. She didn't make to the finish line at Boston Marathon, the bomb hit before she actually got there. But she got a medal from a runner who did finish and stopped to make sure she was OK after the blast went off.

Wellington put the picture on her Facebook page saying she can barely express what it means to her. That's one example.

Reverend Liz Walker joins me now, a former local news anchor in Boston. It is amazing to me, we expect in an instant like this to see -- we see the horror and the hate but we also see incredible kindness and compassion.

And it's not just here in Boston. We see it in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti, the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Incidents bring out the best of us sometimes.

REVEREND LIZ WALKER, ROXBURY, PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH: They do. It's interesting why they do. Why can't we be this way the all the time, I don't know. When evil rises up it seems like good goes for it. And I think that's what gives us hope otherwise we'd have no hope.

But what happened here in Boston, as you said, Anderson, happened across the country and across the world. People rise up to try to reach out and make a difference. And that's the lesson, I guess.

COOPER: You do want to hold on to it make it left as long as it can. I have spent a long time in very difficult areas and I see it time and time again, and there is. This amazing feeling. Just the past week in the city there's an amazing feeling of defiance and pride and strength and people -- people looking each other in the eye and shaking each or's hand hard and hugging each other. You wish that would be like it is all the time.

WALKER: I don't know why. I haven't figured that one out. But the sense of mutuality, the sense that we're all connected and need each other. Maybe it takes those bad things for us even recognize that, because the rest of the message is that we get most of our life is that you get what you can get and the heck with the rest of the world. But when it comes down to it, it's good to know we're not alone.

COOPER: When you're preaching, when you're speaking, people must ask you all the time of why does God let bad things to happen to good people.

WALKER: That's an answer I don't have yet. I think that God is always confronting evil. I think that's history and God always does something against evil and that's the history of my tradition. But I don't know what happens. But I do know that evil will not have the last word. I believe that.

COOPER: You believe that?

WALKER: The good guy wins. Martin Luther King said, the universe arcs on the side of justice. Ultimately justice will win. Maybe I won't see it, maybe you, but it will happen. I think these are these little signs that we see when disaster strikes of justice rearing up.

COOPER: I certainly hope that spirit that we've seen in the city not only continues and permeates life here but extended to the rest of the country because it is -- it's a privilege to be here and witness it and to share in that spirit.

WALKER: You know what? It's an intention. We have to make sure we do random acts of kindness. You are to try to do it, even if you're not facing disaster.

COOPER: Thank you so much. Really a pleasure to talk to you.

I want to turn to another story that we're following, the civil war in Syria. Israel now says Syrian government, they say they believe the Syrian government is using chemical weapon against its own people.

This could be a game changer. Obama stated that was a red line they couldn't cross. A live report straight ahead.


COOPER: Hey, everyone, I'm Anderson Cooper live in Boston. Special coverage from Boston continues.

First, a number of developments we want to tell you about. First, the alleged plot to attack a Canadian passenger train head for the United States, Canadian police have two men in custody.

The suspects had support from al Qaeda in Iran. Iran denies al Qaeda is operating inside its borders.

The men appeared in a Toronto court a couple hours ago, denied bail. Canadian police say they were monitoring the plot and there was never any danger.

There are also new allegations today that Syria's using chemical weapons against rebel forces. This time, the allegations coming from a top military intelligence official in Israel.

Mohammed Jamjoom joins us from Beirut across the border in Lebanon. Mohammed, what specifically is the Israeli official saying?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM: Well, Anderson, at a conference in Tel Aviv today, Brigadier General Itai Brun -- he's the head of the Israel defense forces intelligence research department -- he said that the Syrian government have used chemical weapons several times in the past few months against Syrian rebels, and he said, in all likelihood, they had used sarin gas.

Now, the general went on to say, that they believe that one of the dates that sarin possibly was used was March 19th. He said that they had seen evidence from that date to suggest that victims of the chemical attack, in his words, had suffered the effects of those deadly agents that had been used against them.

Now, we should stress, though, that this comes just one day after a press conference that we've given yesterday by the Israeli defense minister accompanied by U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. That happened in Israel yesterday.

In that press conference, the Israeli defense minister seemed a lot less certain. He said that Israel would not allow rogue elements to get their hands on the chemical stockpile of the Syrian regime. He said that that had not yet happened, it had not been tested, but that Israel would not allow it to happen.


COOPER: Obviously, if this is true, it certainly increases pressure on the United States to increase or to intervene, in some way.

President Obama had said in the past, Syria's use of chemical weapons would be a game changer, that that was a red line that they could not cross. What are you hearing from U.S. officials?

JAMJOOM: Yeah, absolutely, Anderson. On so many occasions in the past couple of years, we've heard from U.S. officials saying that the Syrian regime would suffer dire consequences if they were to use chemical weapons.

Now today we've heard from the Pentagon. The Pentagon press secretary, George Little, said, "The United States continues to assess reports of chemical weapons used in Syrian.

"The use of such weapons would be entirely unacceptable. We reiterate in the strongest possible terms the obligation of the Syrian regime to safeguard its chemical weapon stockpiles and not to use or transfer such weapons to terrorist groups like Hezbollah."

Now also today, Anderson, senior officials have told CNN that they've been concerned that in the past month there has been a lot of movement of the Syrian chemical stockpile.

He says that, while they believe that it has not been used by the Syrian regime, the fact that it's been moved so much raises serious concern about whether or not the U.S. will be able to continue to monitor Syrian stockpiles of chemical weapons.


COOPER: All right, Mohammed Jamjoom in Beirut, appreciate it. Thanks, Mohammed.