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New Boston Bombing Details; Suspect in Ricin Case Released

Aired April 23, 2013 - 15:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And right now, I'm Chris Cuomo here with Brooke Baldwin live in Boston as part of CNN's special coverage of the Boston bombing.

It was a very moving piece and what we have been hearing here is that while we saw the worst of what people can do, Sean Collier, as a victim, represented the best in us.

BALDWIN: It brings out the best in tragedies like these. I talked to a 41-year veteran with the Boston Fire Department. And we see people like Sean Collier. I spent my entire day last Friday in Cambridge and to hear stories sort of anecdotally about him, how he would help everyone on campus, so badly wanted to be a police officer, was in police training school with another officer who was wounded, it's stories like these that are coming out and it is so important for every time we mention the suspects, we want to mention the victims 50 times over.

CUOMO: Right. Absolutely. That's definitely the right intention to have. We are learning more details about what happened within that night, but still unclear.

BALDWIN: We have these photos. I'm sure you have seen these photos here. We just want to share these with you, incredible new photographs taken that were actually taken from this apartment overlooking the road where the two Boston Marathon suspects, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were engaging in this gunfight with police.

We will scroll through a couple of these pictures. But keep your eyes here on the screen. The photos here show the brothers huddling behind a stolen SUV, at times as we reported through the hours last week shooting at police, before this older brother, Tamerlan, charges, runs towards these officers here, then he's seen lying in the street.

The SUV driven by his younger brother who we know is in fair condition at this hour at a hospital here in Boston, he's in the car, accelerates toward his older brother, on the ground.

CUOMO: What is the context for that? Do they believe he was just trying to escape, do they believe he was trying to maybe separate his brother from the officers or is there anything on this?

BALDWIN: I think it was his brother was on the ground, his brother was engaging. That was when we also later learned his brother was strapped with explosives and the younger brother from everything I have gleaned wants to get out of there.

CUOMO: Because of money those explosives. But what does he wind up doing?

BALDWIN: Ultimately gets out of there and ultimately gets caught in the boat.

CUOMO: Right. But he takes his brother out with him. He winds up running over his brother and dragging him.


BALDWIN: Drags his brother down the road, yes.

CUOMO: And winds up -- obviously we know how the story goes from there. And obviously the speculation now is in what situation was the suspect in that boat? Is it a gunshot wound or different type? There have been different reports. Was he armed or not? But at the end of the day, was taken into custody.

His condition is improving and that's important and beneficial because it allows the prosecution to go forward. Now, different types of communication allowed also, doesn't just have to be verbal. We learned from the -- hearing with the judge in the transcript, he was able to appreciate the nature and consequence of the charges against him.

BALDWIN: There was a question specifically, can you afford a lawyer, public defender and the one word that is so key, in terms of that communication you talk about, that was when we know he said no.

CUOMO: Now we go to the next phase, which is, OK, now that we know he's appreciative of the circumstances and able to communicate, what is he saying? And that gets a little troubling too. He says we acted alone. Why is it troubling? Because we don't know whether or not we can trust it and it is a very big thing who else could still be out there. He says that it was him and his brother, that his brother was the mastermind of the situation, that they had learned things on the Internet, and that the motive was to defend his home.

BALDWIN: But can we buy that and can investigators buy that? That's one of the questions. I was listening to your interview with Bob Baer, formerly of the CIA, and if I remember correctly, he said to you given the fact that they were three for three with the pressure cooker bombs and neither of them lost their hands, that's a surprise, if in fact they simply learned how to build the things online.

CUOMO: He makes an interesting distinction. We deal with this as reporters. People will say, why do you say it is on the Internet, why do you say it is on the Internet? First of all, people who want to do these things know it is on the Internet. And it's for us to reform to learn how to respond to that.

But also just because you can see it on the Internet doesn't mean you will be able to do it well yourself. As Brooke said, what we're showing you right now are photos from the night of the shoot-out that are helping tell the story.

BALDWIN: We will get more of those questions in the investigation. But as we have crews still out here flanking Boston, where we're going some new nuggets today, CNN has just learned that this older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, actually bought two mortar kits just a couple of months ago.

CUOMO: That's right.

Brian Todd has been digging on this.

For more, Brian, tell us what you know, please. Could the explosives from these kits, the question is, could they have been enough to do the kind of situation?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The early indications, Chris and Brooke, we're getting is that they were not enough to set off the explosions. What we do know from a man named William Weimer of Phantom Fireworks is that Tamerlan Tsarnaev bought two reloadable mortar kits with 48 shells from the Phantom store in Seabrook, New Hampshire, about an hour north of here, on February 6.

Law enforcement officials tell us that is not enough to set off the kind of explosions that we saw in the Boston Marathon. It is worth noting that they -- authorities seized from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's dorm some kind of a large pyrotechnic.

Were these part of that? We don't know that. We're piecing together some of those details now. To you and I, 48 shells seems like something that would do some damage, but according to law enforcement officials, not enough damage to coincide with what we saw.

BALDWIN: It's interesting. I remember being on the air for CNN for the Times Square bombing in 2010, and it was Faisal Shahzad, and they found it was the fireworks that were in the very similar pressure cooker for that particular instance, but again these are not exactly similar.

Second question is, you have been really talking to a lot of people in Cambridge, and specifically this mosque in Cambridge, trying to figure out were there warning signs, did anyone see red flags that this older brother Tamerlan was becoming radicalized? And so far they're telling you no.

TODD: No. We were just there a short time ago at this mosque, the Islamic Society of Boston mosque in Cambridge, really pressing them on it. He had two outbursts at the mosque, one in November, one in January, where he basically rattled on about their interpretation of Islam was different from his, that their take on it was just not as pure as maybe he would like, to put it generally.

They say, look, flat out, if he was radicalized, it didn't happen here. We saw no signs of it.

CUOMO: They gave the opposite indication, right, Brian, which is that when he had the outbursts, Brooke, they tried to talk him back. TODD: Exactly.

CUOMO: It's not the etiquette for here and it's not what we believe.

TODD: They laid down the law to him.

BALDWIN: They said don't come back.

TODD: They said, if you do this again, you're out. They said he kept coming back. But the times he came back for Friday prayers, he was quiet after that.

The uncle has told us that he saw signs of radicalization as far back as about four years ago and that Tamerlan Tsarnaev once called him, the uncle, an infidel. We're piecing some of the details together, when, how it happened, and where it happened. Still a little bit elusive right now.


CUOMO: This is also why there is so much curiosity about the trip back to Russia, the extended period, the other activity that was going on of a radical nature and then the timing of him coming back and posting online of the same person who was radicalizing in that area. Sometimes where there is smoke, there is fire, right?


TODD: That's true. We don't know what happened in Dagestan in Russia when he went back there for six months, a long period of time.

He may have gone to Chechnya for a short time during that window, and, again, but we're not sure if the radicalization happened there. The uncle says he thinks it happened in Cambridge. We're investigating.

CUOMO: And what matters is the asking. Right? In these situations, as we learned in the past, Faisal Shahzad was a great example of it in 2010, right, where you get worried about asking the questions because they may show vulnerability of accountability, that you didn't do the right thing. You don't want to ask. But in situations like that, we have to press, because they have to ask.

BALDWIN: You have to ask.


CUOMO: Because that's how we get better going forward.

TODD: That's right. We're piecing together those details now, and we hope to have more later.


BALDWIN: Thank you, Brian Todd. Excellent reporting here. CUOMO: Final stretch of Boylston Street just right behind us. This is where everything happened.

BALDWIN: Huge news today, yes.

CUOMO: Big deal, big deal. Because Boston strong, everyone says it, and they're living it here. It is reopening. It is the latest step in Boston trying to get back to normal, small stretch of the street were open in increments today allowing business owners to get back in the area for the first time since last week's bombings.

Wanted to play you a little bit of the ceremony just to get a sense of the solemnity of the occasion, how important it is. The FBI, which had closed the area, as part of the investigation, returned it to the city late yesterday in this ceremony.

CNN's Jason Carroll was on Boylston Street. It is not business as usual, just yet, but we're getting there, right?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is a step. It is a step in the right direction, Chris.

Obviously for the people here in this area, business owners, residents who live along Boylston street as well, basically what is happening today is if you just go around the corner from where we are now, that's the Convention Center, that's where business owners and residents have been checking in. They started checking in early this morning at about 10:00, checking in with city officials, getting their names on the list, making sure everything was all right before they were then escorted back into their businesses or residences.

Once again started at 10:00 a.m. this morning. It has been done in staggered steps. One block per hour. The first block was at 10:00 a.m. The last block, which is just happening at this hour, at 3:00, is the blocks of Fairfield and Exeter. And obviously we have been talking to a lot of people throughout the day, Chris and Brooke, you know, talking to residents, business owners, and you get different impressions from them.

Business owners, a lot of them feeling as though this is finally the time for them to take the steps getting back to some sense of normalcy. But also there is a lot of emotion involved as well. Want you to listen to some of the folks that we spoke to earlier today.


BECKY CALOGGERO, BOSTON: Definitely a step in the right direction. (INAUDIBLE) a while. Every day goes by, and we're really not sure what is going on. But today we get to go in before the place is open up to the public to clean up and do what we need to do to get ready.

HELENA COLLINS, BOSTON: For us, and our business it is 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 lifelong struggles? ED BORASH, BOSTON: I have had a tough time. I had a son -- I had a son that works with me that goes to school and we had walked outside two seconds before the bomb. And I had envelopes in my hand for him to mail at the bomb site in the mailbox. And he said, dad, can we go? I looked at the crowd of people there, I said, OK, I will just mail them out when we feel. So I just feel very lucky and I'm just very -- it's very emotional.


CARROLL: A lot of emotion there.

It is happening one block at a time. The big question obviously for the city at large is when will the public be allowed back inside their homes and back along here in the businesses when everyone can come back in and enjoy the area? The mayor's office basically says no timeline on that, not just yet -- Brooke, Chris.

BALDWIN: So many people are ready for that street to be open. There are so many restaurants and stores and people just want to get back in there on Boylston. Jason Carroll, thank you so much.

And as you were mentioning, you know, we're talking with CNN to a lot of the family members here of these two suspects. Specifically there is an aunt in Russia who showed CNN this family photograph of this older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, as a little baby.

And now investigators -- there it is -- now investigators are wondering what happened to transform this baby boy into this criminal, this murderer, suspected, suspected bomber, the mastermind of the blast Monday as his brother has alleged from his hospital bed? Certainly no doubt federal investigators are turning to Tamerlan's social media accounts and they're probing to see if the 26-year-old had direct ties to al Qaeda, of course, the group responsible for 9/11.

CUOMO: And it gets more and more complicated. We will bring you CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank. He's been investigating that angle of the story for us.

Paul, what, right now, is the best thinking on where the investigators are in terms of believing that this was bigger than these brothers?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, the investigators will be looking at the devices themselves, but also at the trip to Dagestan, to Russia, in 2012 of the elder brother.

Now, there are some striking parallels between the devices in Boston and a recipe in al Qaeda, in spy magazine that came out in the summer of 2010. That may suggest it's an al Qaeda-inspired plots, not linked to an overseas terrorist group, but by followers of al Qaeda's ideology in the United States. CNN was reporting last night that may well be the case here, Chris.

BALDWIN: Paul, this is Brooke. Let me ask you a question here, because we have been hearing bits and pieces from the transcript from Dzhokhar, from the hospital bed, and specifically he's saying he and his brother were self-radicalized, that they were not taught by some group, some jihadist extremist group firsthand.

When you hear about though what happened, the successful two pressure cooker bombs going off on Boylston, just a block away from where we are, and that they sustained no injuries, do you buy that? I know you're not in on the investigation, but is that plausible that they got zero outside help?

CRUICKSHANK: I think it certainly is plausible that they did not receive overseas training somewhere.

It seems they probably would have tested this device, they would be lucky to get it right first time. But we're talking to explosive experts and they say that they could well have succeed in launching these sorts of devices successfully without any sort of formal training, Brooke.

CUOMO: Now, thank you very much for that, Paul. Appreciate it.

We're going to keep staying on that, because it is obviously a big question. I have been looking over my shoulder because they're taking down the final parts of the marathon here, another sign that they're returning the city to what it is supposed to be and that's great to watch over the shoulder.


CUOMO: We're also getting some breaking news information in here on a murder investigation involving the older suspect's best friend. So we will take a break. Watch the progress here. And we will be right back.


CUOMO: Chris Cuomo with Brooke Baldwin here in Boston for our continuing coverage of the investigation here.

For everything that we learn through investigators, more questions and a big one raised today.

BALDWIN: We're learning a lot more, including Deb Feyerick, who has been working her sources, because there have been reports of this person who was murdered several years ago here in the Boston area.

Deb Feyerick, this was -- correct me if I'm wrong, this was a friend of the elder suspect, of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. What have you learned?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this wasn't just any friend.

This was actually his best friend. The two were sparring partners, they spent a lot of time together, and now we're being told by a source close to the Boston investigation that in fact the murder, the murder of the best friend, Brendan Mess, and two others who were also killed, it is getting looked at by a wider set of eyes, by a lot more investigators to see is there any connections, any links?

Initially, the crime was seen as a drug-related crime. The three men, we're being told, had their throats slit and the district attorney at the time confirmed that, that each of the men had died of sharp force injuries to the neck. A very bloody crime scene at that. We are told that after the crime, the victims, it appears, did know the perpetrators, did know the perpetrators.

One of the reasons you're seeing -- we're not suggesting Tamerlan is a perpetrator. You can see his image on the screen right now. But because of the close relationship, because of the interaction of the two men, this whole murder is being reexamined. Again, you have got investigators from all different agencies now who are on scene. And they're looking to see whether in fact how this plays in, how the death of his best friend may have affected Tamerlan.

That is all under investigation. We're told that, in fact, that at the crime scene, excuse me, at the crime scene, one thing that really stood out to investigators is that the three men were each pulled into separate rooms, they had their throats slit. Police believe the victims knew who the perpetrators were.

Also, what was so interesting is that on the bodies, investigators found -- investigators found marijuana, marijuana sprinkled all over the bodies, along with cash, cash which had been left behind. So whether that was symbolic gesture, that is one thing they're looking into. But right now, this new murder of -- this murder is being reexamined with a whole fresh set of eyes -- Brooke, Chris.

CUOMO: Well, obviously the universe of possibilities keeps expanding and with it the questions for investigators.

Let me ask you this, Deb. Any understanding as to whether or not investigators believe the younger brother could have any information about these murders?

FEYERICK: You know, they don't know. They don't know.

One thing we can tell you is that, according to folks we are talking to, one big question is, is why wasn't the older brother questioned at the time? Again, it was very close friend of one of the murder suspects, but right now there's no information suggesting that he was ever questioned.

So, that's under investigation. Also, there may have been two people involved in this murder. So that's something that is coming out of the district attorney's office. They do believe that those victims knew who their killers were, and that there were probably more than one. But, again, whether the younger Tsarnaev has been asked those questions, not sure. This is just one more piece to this extensive puzzle, Chris. CUOMO: All right, Deb, thank you very much.

Obviously, they're investigating on all these levels, and it keeps going and going, because they have to figure out whatever they can, so much unknown here. Thanks for that.

We will go to a break. But when we come back, this is a really bizarre twist. The ricin letters that were sent out, you will remember, they went to the president, other officials, very dangerous, quickly they believe they found their man. Today, he's released. And we didn't get any explanation for it until we got with Kevin Curtis', the suspect's lawyer.

BALDWIN: Lawyer.

CUOMO: Wait until you hear the story when we come back.


CUOMO: Hello, everybody. I'm Chris Cuomo alongside Brooke Baldwin here in Boston of course for our continuing coverage of the Boston terror attacks.

Among the stories we're also following at this hour, a really stunning twist in this case of the letters that were ricin-laced. You will remember, Paul Kevin Curtis, the man charged with sending ricin- laced letters to President Obama and other officials, well, he has been released from custody. How do we know? We talked to his lawyer last hour.


CHRISTI MCCOY, ATTORNEY FOR PAUL KEVIN CURTIS: There were countless agencies, officers, agents at Mr. Curtis' home, searching his car, searching his former wife's home, and searching his computers, and there was just simply nothing to link him to...


CUOMO: Do you think somebody -- Christi, Christi, you think somebody was trying to frame him? Because the letter, the language was menacing, right? Because it was an extraction of a quote that was, if you see a wrong, you don't do something about it, you're part of that wrong, implying an action, and the initials are C.K. You think somebody is trying to frame him?


MCCOY: I absolutely do.

And he actually -- that quote is one he has used because it is kind of a favorite of whistle-blowers and he kind of felt like that he was a whistle-blower back several years ago about some things that happened.

And he has used that quote repeatedly on his own social media. So I do believe that someone who was familiar and is familiar with Kevin just simply took his personal information and did this to him. It is absolutely horrific.


BALDWIN: So just quickly, before we go to Joe Johns, she told you, I was listening to the whole interview, she said to you that it was basically the way he normally signs his signature that was similar to the way in which these ricin-laced letter were signed, and that's one of the reasons why she thinks her guy has been fingered.


And it is part of her expectation that he is innocent. And you have to remember, that's a very high bar legally. Being not guilty means the case wasn't made. They couldn't prove it. Being innocent means you had nothing to do with it at all and that would be a really stark turn in this story.

BALDWIN: Let's go to Joe Johns, our crime and justice correspondent, and he has also been working this story.

And do we know why or do we know the conditions of his release at all?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: No, we don't know the conditions of his release.

The latest development from the federal government has been this order from the U.S. district court for the Northern District of Mississippi, and all it says from the judge in this case involving Paul Kevin Curtis, "The detention, hearing and preliminary hearing on the criminal complaint in this action are hereby continued until further order of this court."

So it sounds very much like a legal limbo. And that's not a technical term. We're waiting for the Justice Department's. They haven't had any comment at all. They are saying basically that the investigation into this strange case is continuing, Paul Kevin Curtis charged with sending ricin-laced letters to President Obama, other officials, including Roger Wicker, the senator from Mississippi.

Now, he did plead not guilty at the outset. And probably the most telling thing that we heard all day is from that attorney, Chris, that you interviewed, who said that his house was searched. He even suggested that his ex-wife's house was searched, and authorities did not find anything. It is our understanding that throughout all of these searches, the authorities have not found any trace of ricin, which was allegedly the substance that was sent through the mail that started all this.

We're waiting for a news conference from the authorities to give us some sense of what they're saying on this, Chris.

CUOMO: Well, strong points, Joe, but in fairness, all due deference to Ms. McCoy, she says they didn't find anything. They haven't said anything to us, so we don't know, not to undermine her at all, but again we have to hear from the authorities.

And we do know, and this again from Ms. McCoy, there are conditions on this. It is a tethered release, Joe and Brooke. There is bond on it. We don't know what the conditions were. She didn't want to give them. But he's not on his own recognizance. This could be very what Joe says. Continuance means adding time to the process. It doesn't mean it is over, doesn't mean that it isn't him in the eyes of the prosecution.

But, Joe, thank you very much for following it up. As you learn, let us know and we will get right back to you.

JOHNS: Will do.

BALDWIN: Thank you, Joe.

We will get more information also from the press conference on Curtis' release. That's at 6:00 p.m. Eastern time. We will be listening in on "THE SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER" later today.

CUOMO: Another story we have been following here developing throughout the day came from Wall Street. Stocks just took this volatile plunge and then right back up. People couldn't figure out why. It was based on a tweet from the AP.

And it just baffled everybody. Look at what happened in this White House press conference about it from a reporter from the AP. Take a listen.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I have no announcements, so I will take your questions. Julie.

JULIE PACE, AP: Thanks, Jay.

I just want to say at the top that it appears as though AP's Twitter account has been hacked. So anything that was just sent out about any incident at the White House is obviously false (OFF-MIKE) shortly and (OFF-MIKE) clarify that if that hasn't happened already.

CARNEY: Good. I thank you for that. I appreciate that. And I can say that the president is fine. I was just with him.


BALDWIN: Let's go straight to Wall Street to Alison Kosik, who watched the numbers go down and then watched them back up all over this tweet, this hacked tweet.


So, what this tweet said from the Associated Press was that there had been two explosions at the White House, that President Obama was hurt.