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Boston Bombing Investigation Continues; President Obama Talks to Russian President

Aired April 29, 2013 - 15:00   ET


ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now, also, we saw Katie Russell leave just behind them with her attorneys. They got into one of her attorney's cars and they drove away in a caravan that had about five federal vehicles, so six cars, including Katie Russell with her attorneys. And our producer Aaron Cooper reports they went to Katie Russell's attorney's office, which is downtown Providence, where some of them still are. We haven't seen anybody yet return to the house, Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And just, Erin, in terms of Katie Russell in general, you know, we have been reading all these different accounts of how she met Tamerlan Tsarnaev a couple of years ago here in Boston at a nightclub and over the course of time, she converted to Islam.

What more do we know about her?

MCPIKE: Not a lot, Brooke.

We have talked to several people who went to high school with her. They say she was very likable, very dependable, a good student. She was very artistic. People have lots of great things to say about the Russell family. She has two younger sisters. People gush about her younger sister, Anna (ph), and her parents. But we don't know much else, because, of course, Katie Russell hasn't lived here in the last six years while she's been in Boston.

BALDWIN: Hmm. All right. Erin McPike for us in Rhode Island, Erin, we appreciate it.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev's uncle told CNN right after the bombings that a man by the name of Misha is this person who -- quote -- "brainwashed" his nephew into radicalism. Well, today, a U.S. government official told CNN that the FBI has now interviewed this Rhode Island man, named Misha, about his links to the Tsarnaev family. CNN also spoke with Christian Caryl of "The New York Review of Books" who says he found and he interviewed this man who says his name is Mikhail Allakhverdov.


CHRISTIAN CARYL, "THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS": When I asked him about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, it was quite -- he made it very clear he had indeed known him. He did not specify any details about the nature of their relationship, but was very, very, very intent on explaining that he had nothing to do with any kind of radicalization.

What he told me was, I was not his teacher. If I had been his teacher, I would have made sure he would know that doing something like this was wrong. So he was very, very emphatic about that, very upset, and went to great lengths to convince me that he really had nothing to do with this.

And he made the point, he claimed to me that the FBI had told him that his case was, in fact, about to be closed because the FBI had investigated his computer, his cell phone, all of his equipment, and documents, and concluded that he wasn't really involved, certainly not involved in the organization of the attacks.

Now, is that true? I don't know. But we still have to find out.


BALDWIN: So this is one account. But here we are in Boston, week three, the question still remains, who is Misha and is he the guy everyone has been talking about and looking for?

Brian Todd is standing by for us in Rhode Island.

Brian, you have been looking for Misha. What have you found? Who have you found?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, we have kind of tracked him through Massachusetts and now Rhode Island trying to find him.

And he remains an elusive figure. Is he, in fact, the person who that reporter for "The New York Review of Books interviewed, a man he identified as Mikhail Allakhverdov? Law enforcement sources are being a little cagey. They're not telling us conclusively that he is the Misha in question.

"The New York Review of Books" reported that this person did have contact with federal authorities, that they interviewed him, that they may be about ready to close his case. We staked out his apartment, an apartment that we identified as maybe belonging to his parents. And a short time ago, a lawyer identifying himself as Richard Nicholson, who represents the parents of this person who "The New York Review of Books" interviewed, Mikhail Allakhverdov, he appeared and talked about how the parents are dealing with law enforcement authorities and with this investigation. Take a listen.


RICHARD NICHOLSON, ATTORNEY: To date, they have answered all the questions that have been asked of them by the authorities. They're fully cooperating and that's it. There is really nothing more to say.

QUESTION: What is the connection with the brothers?

NICHOLSON: I have no comment. I just -- these are two elderly individuals. Mom has a heart condition. And she's under a lot of stress and pressure obviously from all the attention. So I suspect that the authorities will be asking additional questions. But at some juncture, they will be closing that part of the investigation.


TODD: So the question remains, is Mikhail Allakhverdov, who is the son of the parents that that attorney represents, is he the Misha in question? He did tell "The New York Review of Books" that he knew Tamerlan Tsarnaev, that he was acquainted with him, that he is an Armenian -- of Armenian dissent and was a convert to Islam, as had been described when describing this man Misha.

But he said he had no role in the bombings, that he was not his teacher. So is this the Misha in question? Law enforcement authorities not telling us that conclusively, Brooke. We're still tracking him.

BALDWIN: Yes, that's the big question. And in the Christian Caryl piece, he says, no, he wasn't the teacher, even though this uncle says, yes, in fact, he was. Brian Todd, keep digging for us. We appreciate you in Rhode Island.

We are also learning more today about this deadly pressure cooker that these two bombs used just up the road from me here in Boston here on Boylston Street. A U.S. law enforcement official telling CNN so far investigators have no evidence the bombs were ever tested here in the United States.

This source says if Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the elder of these brothers, had received any kind of training in order to -- how to make this bomb, it could have come while he was overseas in the Russian region of Dagestan, a source also telling us here at CNN that the search for the landfill, remember this landfill near UMass Dartmouth where Dzhokhar had been attending school? They were looking for his laptop. That search came up empty-handed.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, though, he is now sitting in a cell, a 10- foot-by-10-foot cell. He's recovering from gunshot wounds at this prison medical facility in Devens, Massachusetts, about 40 miles here from where we are in Boston.

And CNN's Ashleigh Banfield is here with more on his condition, but also all these great exclusive details about how, you know, he was brought into Beth Israel here in Boston just a couple of days ago covered in blood.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, it feels like it was a month ago.


BANFIELD: But about a week ago, on that Friday night, that fateful Friday night, after those -- after he was taken out of the boat, under quite a bit of gunfire and the night before that they -- he and his brother had undergone a battle with the police officers, he was very, very wounded. So I have a senior hospital employee source that told me the details of what it was like that night when he arrived, when that ambulance got there with paramedics and that suspect in that ambulance. He was apparently covered in blood head to toe. He was -- and apparently his face was very bloody. Also, he was wrapped in a lot of field gauze and it appeared that he had lost a lot of blood. He was semi-conscious. His eyes were closed.

They raced him off to the red zone trauma center, very quickly, but it was interesting that the local police wanted to actually set up a crime scene and actually investigate a crime scene in that ambulance.

BALDWIN: In the ambulance.

BANFIELD: In the ambulance. Look, they get a lot of bad guys, right? They want to get as much evidence as they can anywhere they can. But it was very clear to this source that the FBI was in charge right away and the conversation was as I'm told very brief.

So the FBI took him. They went with him the entire time, the hospital staff, got him to the red zone where he was stabilized. Apparently fairly quickly, he was stabilized and the FBI never left his side.

BALDWIN: And then this is the area -- you talk about where he was brought in -- we have all been to the hospital, where you have the curtains sort of partitioning off where you are.

BANFIELD: Not very private.

BALDWIN: Not very private at all. And so one of the questions you asked, I thought astutely so, was, my goodness, if this suspect here and what happened in Boston could possibly be sitting anywhere near one of the alleged victims and they said no.


BANFIELD: They said absolutely no victims in that red zone trauma response area. So anybody who overheard anything that was going on didn't overhear anything that would have been out of the ordinary. It sounded like a regular trauma victim. By the way, he was very quiet when he arrived at the loading area, the ambulance loading bay.

But the moaning and the pain was very evident by the time he got up to that trauma area. He was moaning, but not making any clear words or asking for anybody in particular. He wasn't saying help me. He wasn't saying where is my brother, nothing like that. Just it appeared he was in great distress and a great deal of pain.

He didn't stay there for very long. They treated this guy very quickly. He was processed quickly. He went down for a C.T. scan, he went down for X-ray scans, and then went to the O.R. very quickly as well. FBI staying within arm's length at all points of this, Even the O.R. They were not far away from him. And then after that, it was about two to three hours from the moment he arrived until the time they got him out into a secured ICU. Now, last week, I gave you that exclusive information. There was secured ICU on an upper floor.

BALDWIN: But you couldn't say which one.

BANFIELD: We chose at CNN it was not a good idea to broadcast.


BANFIELD: Now, we know since he's gone the security risk is over -- it was a sixth floor at the Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital. They shut that entire ICU down. He was the only patient in there. But, man, was there law enforcement detachment there.

And, by the way, when he was being operated on, I left this detail out -- when he was being operated on, there were two thoracic surgeons, other surgeons and no shortage of between eight to 10 medical staff processing, working on him, in that emergency moment.

But then afterwards, of course, in that week, that ensuing week, my source tells me he was getting better rapidly and --

BALDWIN: He's 19.

BANFIELD: He's 19. And it's been a long time since I was 19, but he self-repaired very quickly.

He was improving very quickly, which gave rise to the idea that he was able to sit up and he was writing copiously at that time and that -- and that also it was pretty remarkable the amount of law enforcement that was positioned outside that ICU as well. What is amazing though is how they got him out.

BALDWIN: Incredible. But it also makes sense when you think of the entire staff working on him so carefully for however long they did.

BANFIELD: Well, taking him off a loading dock too so that we don't see it. At 3:30 in the morning, out you go off a loading dock, not even an ambulance.

BALDWIN: They wanted him alive. He has a lot of questions to answer to. Hopefully, he's continuing to cooperate. Ashleigh Banfield, thank you. Great, great stuff.

BANFIELD: Sure. Thank you.

BALDWIN: And in other news here, beyond what has been happening in Boston, we have some new close-up video from the New York Police Department of that piece of landing gear that was found near Ground Zero on Friday. And investigators can now confirm it came from a Boeing 767 like the plane that flew into those Twin Towers back in 2001.

Mary Snow joins us from New York.

And police, Mary, I know they're treating the area like a crime scene because of the possibility of finding human remains. What can you tell us?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's absolutely correct.

Brooke, you might be able to see behind me is a medical examiner's truck and what we're told is that they're going through a number of safety protocols because tomorrow the medical examiner's office plans to go into the site where the wreckage was found and sift the soil for possible human remains. And that piece of the wreckage is being kept here at the site.

Authorities here in New York are saying they have no doubt that it belonged to one of the two hijacked planes that hit the World Trade Center just a few blocks from where we're standing. We did get some new images of that piece of wreckage, and what the NYPD is saying is that it has been determined that it is a part of the wing structure and not a piece of the landing gear as initially thought.

But it is unclear which plane it belonged to. Now, if this area looks familiar at all, it is because it had generated some controversy a couple of years ago. The building -- the wreckage was found behind the building known as Park 51. And if you remember, there had been some protests because of plans to build an Islamic community center because of its proximity to Ground Zero. Those plans got tied up in legal issues, financial issues, but this is a street that had had a lot of headlines a couple of years ago -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: How incredibly eerie, though, so many years later to be finding a piece of one of those planes. Mary Snow in New York. Mary, thank you.

Just in to us at CNN, we're getting word that President Obama spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin today about a number of things, most notably the escalating situation actually in Syria. We're told President Obama underscored his concern over reports the regime has been using chemical weapons against its own people. The two leaders also spoke about a tragic hospital fire in Moscow last week and the fallout from the Boston bombings.

Coming up next, a major announcement in sports, and this has nothing to do with a big-name player changing teams. No, no. We're talking about Jason Collins this hour, a professional basketball player coming out, saying he wants to take a stand. We're going to talk live to a former NBA player who made that very same decision to come out after he was finished playing. John Amaechi join me live next.


BALDWIN: The NBA's Jason Collins has entered the history books today. And he did so with the simple words penned for "Sports Illustrated." Take a look with me. "I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay." He goes on to write this. This is a cover of "S.I.," by the way -- quote -- "The recent Boston Marathon bombing reinforced the notion that I shouldn't wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect. Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?"

That's a quote from Jason Collins, a 12-year veteran of the NBA. As of today, he's the first openly gay male athlete playing a major team sport in America. This is a big deal.

Joining me now from London, former NBA player John Amaechi. John Amaechi came out actually after he retired from the NBA.

So, John, nice to see you. Tell me, just what does this coming out mean to you?

JOHN AMAECHI, FORMER NBA PLAYER: I think it is a remarkable thing. I think obviously That he's an active player is important.

But more important than that, to me, is the fact of who he is. We could not -- and I don't mean gay people could not -- society could not ask for a better, more positive, more eloquent role model than this young man. He is remarkable in that extent. Anybody who has ever spoken to him knows he's not your average athlete. He is going to be able to tackle some difficult times that will come along with the many good things that are coming his way.

He's going to be able to talk with nuance about issues that America still finds quite difficult and the sporting world within America still finds very, very difficult. It gives me wonderful, warm feelings to know he's there and that he's going to be able to take this mantle, along with playing hopefully several more NBA seasons.

BALDWIN: You know, John, just reading this piece, he talks about how -- he talks about his sheer physicality, he talks about how he actually took someone out on the court, and that person had to be rolled out on a stretcher, that he's not, you know, maybe someone who his players would immediately think could be gay.

Even his own twin brother, when he told his twin brother, his twin brother was surprised. But back to your point about the fact he's an active player, why do you think that it is so significant for an active player to come out?

AMAECHI: Because it is a first. And firsts are important.

I think it is important because the media thinks it is important. I have been unable to do any work for most of today because I have got 765 interview requests to talk about Jason. That makes it clear that he is a huge deal, that this story is a huge deal. And I just -- again, I can't emphasize enough, it isn't always just about the event itself. Sometimes it is about the person who makes the event.

And in this case, he is what makes this special. The fact that he's an active player is important. The fact that he's in one of the major team sports in America is important. But the fact that he at his core is going to be superbly equipped to be a brilliant spokesperson, to be a wonderful role model for all types of people is what makes this exciting for me.

BALDWIN: John Amaechi, we appreciate being one of your 762 e- mails. And we appreciate you responding to ours here on CNN.

And we should just also be clear, of course, we're reaching out to Jason, but he's not giving interviews as of yet.

John, thank you.

BALDWIN: Want to turn to a tragic story out of California involving an 8-year-old girl. This little girl has been stabbed to death. A manhunt is under way. Her older brother tells police he found her and saw an intruder running from the house. Next, we're going to talk to Mike Brooks about how police can use that information to track down a suspect.


BALDWIN: Now to a developing story out of Northern California. An intense manhunt is under way as police are searching for the killer of an 8-year-old girl.

Police in Valley Springs, California, say Leila Fowler was stabbed to death Saturday while her parents were away. Fowler's older brother told police he was the one who found her. He was also the one, he says, who saw this intruder racing out of this home. People in the neighborhood, they're being warned to lock their doors, to be on the lookout.

There was extra security at bus stops in the area and schools as well.

HLN law enforcement analyst Mike Brooks is joining me now.

And, Mike, horrible tragedy, 8-year-old stabbed to death. But I want to ask about the timing, because I know it is crucial here. What leads, if any, do police have?

MIKE BROOKS, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Brooke, they have done a search warrant on the house. And apparently they have found some fingerprint evidence and what they believe is DNA evidence.

So, you know, they also set up a number of roadblocks, stopping cars in and out of the area, to see whether or not they may have seen anything at all during that particular time of day. So, you know, they had also about 100 law enforcement personnel there in Calaveras County in Valley Springs doing a search of that area.

But so far, they have not found anything. But I can tell you, they're also probably looking at is sex offender registries, because looked up myself in the California sex offender registry, and there are a number, Brooke there in Calaveras County, but specifically in Valley Springs, there are 12. So I guarantee you that investigators are going to make sure that those people were in pocket and they know exactly what -- their whereabouts when this thing happened.

BALDWIN: OK, so looking at sex offenders in the area, but I also know that, Mike, in situations where you have someone who is found stabbed to death and you find the person who discovers this individual, be it a neighbor, or even a 12-year-old brother, sometimes they're initially considered suspects. Is that the case with this 12- year-old brother?

BROOKS: Oh, they are going to take a look at everyone, especially the people who are closest to the victim in this case and her brother, who is the 12-year-old that found her. So, yes, they're going to be speaking to the 12-year-old. They're going to be talking to witnesses, family.

But, first of all, as you said, you want to eliminate those closest to the victim so they can move on from there with any other leads they have. And, you know, if they do have some DNA that doesn't belong inside that house, doesn't belong to a family member, Brooke, I think that's a great start by checking the CODIS or a state database for DNA.

BALDWIN: Mike Brooks, thank you so much.

BROOKS: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: That manhunt, as we said, in California continues.

Here in Boston, after the bombings now two weeks ago today, we have heard about multiple terrorism watch lists. Well, this week, another list will come out featuring countries that support international terrorism. And one country on that list has some saying the U.S. needs to take these lists much more seriously. We will have both sides debate that list next.