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Santa Barbara Rampage; Violent Clashes in Eastern Ukraine Overshadow Vote; Pope Francis Prays at Separation Barrier

Aired May 25, 2014 - 08:00   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Those are some of the images, the latest images we're getting from that shooting in southern California that happened on Friday night. But we're so glad that you're spending part of your morning with us here, so we can talk more about everything. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Now, 8:00 on the East Coast, 5:00 out West. It's NEW DAY SUNDAY.

And we want to push forward getting some answers and understanding why, as we cover this top story this morning, the devastating killing, the spree that left seven people dead, including the shooter in that college town in California, Isla Vista.

PAUL: Yes, that shooter, of course, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger described a lifetime of rejection by women and sexual frustration in this 141-page manifesto. And what you're looking at there, a lengthy YouTube video that detailed his plan to attack.

BLACKWELL: New details this morning about the shooter. Early this morning, Santa Barbara Sheriff Bill Brown told us that Rodger had been treated for mental illness and had been prescribed medication and that he planned Friday night's attack for at least a year.

PAUL: Let's take a moment and really remember the victims. Here, this is Christopher Martinez. He was shot inside the I.V. Deli, just 20 years owed. His father called him, quote, "a great kid."

BLACKWELL: This is Veronika Weiss, 19 years old. She was shot by Rodger while standing outside the sorority house. Her friends remember her as a beautiful friend. Also, always smiling.

PAUL: I want to share with you a photo we just received of 22- year-old Katie Cooper here. She was studying archaeology at UC-Santa Barbara. Our thoughts and prayers certainly with all of your family and friends today.

But, you imagine, you know, the chaos and the panic, how frenetic it was. It lasted just ten minutes Friday night. In that time, though, Elliot Rodger created an incredible amount of chaos.

BLACKWELL: There are 10 crime scenes there including Rodger's apartment, sorority house, local deli, multiple streets where he engaged in a shootout, more than one shootout with police.

PAUL: Sara Sidner has been following the story and she joins us now live from Isla Vista.

Sara, I know that it's early there. What are you seeing this morning? I know there are a lot of vigils.

SIDNER: Yes, Christi and Victor, we are standing outside the I.V. Deli Mart. You mentioned this victim. It's really important to this community that the victims are talked about more than the suspect and his manifesto and his rage against society, women in particular.

Let me show you the vigil that's growing here. It is filled with candles. There are notes to the family. There are pictures. It says your family will miss you, Chris, with a big red heart and some pictures of Christopher Ross Martinez.

His father spoke, tearing up twice, a gut retching cry at the end, trying to explain to parents, that you never think it's going to happen to you, but it does happen. He says, it happened to our family.

I want to show you one more thing up here. This is just the process of healing as people in this community try to understand what happened, try to heal from this.

There are two bullet holes you will see. Sticking out of those bullet holes are bouquets of flowers, underneath that lots of candles. This community shaken by this, the students quite nervous yesterday.

They told us time and again, the different people we were talking to, that they were nervous every time a car drove by because the suspect was doing a lot of what he did in drive-by shootings. He was also ramming people with his car, running people over and shooting back at deputies as well. This has created quite the scene. Ten scenes in total here in Isla Vista -- Christi.

PAUL: All righty. Sara, we appreciate it very much. Take good care there. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: So, Sara Sidner, thank you so much.

You can also watch Sheriff Brown on the next program coming up at 9:00 with Candy Crowley, "STATE OF THE UNION," for a full interview one hour from now.

And, you know, just last month, Rodgers' family reached out to police after they discovered social media posts about suicide and killing people. Police went to the home. They said he was polite and courteous and when they did a mental health check at his residence, things appeared to be fine. So they left.

PAUL: This baffles a lot of people to hear this. Let's bring in retired law enforcement agent, Lou Palumbo.

Lou, thank you for being here. Can you walk us through, what happens when police show up at someone's door for a mental health check, what specifically are you looking for?

LOU PALUMBO, RETIRED LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENT: Well, I think in this instance it was a welfare check. That's a little bit different. What they want to do, first and foremost, is make sure that the individual they've been summoned to visit is actually OK.

In the instance with this gentleman, he put forth a sufficient behavioral package or characteristics that left the police with the impression that he was, in fact, OK. It wasn't a mental health check.

I think there were individuals that were involved with him such as mental health professionals that knew there were some deep rooted problems here, the same way the family picked up on it. Something slipped through the cracks here. Simply stated, this was on the radar screen. I think it was an issue of how it was managed or handled after they realized there was a problem.

BLACKWELL: You know, the sheriff, when we spoke with him last hour, talked about mental health. For people who didn't see it, let's play a portion of it.


BILL BROWN, SANTA BARBARA SHERIFF'S OFFICE: Mr. Rodger, although deeply disturbed, he was able to put on a front, as it were, and convince them and obviously convince a lot of other people that he didn't have problems that were so severe that it would require some fairly extreme intervention by mental health professionals. He obviously had been treated for quite some time by mental health care professionals. He had been prescribed medication, and he had a severe underlying mental illness.


BLACKWELL: Lou, there was something else that criminologist James Fox said, and this will stick with me. He said there are no red flags, quote, "yellow flags -- there are only yellow flags that turn red after the blood is spilled."

Do you agree there's no red flag?

PALUMBO: No, I don't think with that statement at all. I think there are times that individuals demonstrate an extreme type of behavior, and you have to react to it.

The point in fact is that in law enforcement, we come up against these individuals on a daily basis. We refer to them as EDPs or emotionally disturbed people. Their red flag is there.

The behavior is erratic, it's violent. Those are red flags. There's nothing yellow about them. And those are the flags we react to. Unfortunately, at best, when they conducted this mental health check or this welfare check, there were probably some yellow indicators. But there's something interesting here. This young man had been prescribed medication which means he had seen an M.D. I'd be curious to know what the M.D.s are going to say about this incident in light of the fact that they were treating him.

PAUL: Well, I don't know that we'll ever get that information because medical information so many times is --

BLACKWELL: HIPAA laws protect them.

PAUL: But one of the other things that the sheriff said that stood out to us was the fact that based on all this information, he can deduce Rodger had been planning this attack for at least a year.

So, I want to ask you, are people that good at covering up tracks that he specifically was able to outsmart police or sheriff's deputies when they went to his home for this welfare check?

PALUMBO: Yes. I think you should never underscore or underestimate anyone. I think there was one particular point where this young man crossed the threshold. That was approximately a month ago when he chose to purchase three very dangerous weapons, high capacity automatic pistols from three different locations. I think he had a threshold where he realized he was going to carry that out.

As far as them being able to mask this, I don't think for this young man it was that problematic. Through his own words, he'll speak to you as to how disenfranchised he was from main street America and in particular his own demographic. So, he could have been navigating, harboring these feelings and there would be no way anybody would know unless they engaged him in conversation. Apparently something triggered the parents though.

BLACKWELL: Do you think there should be some alert or something? I'm sure we'll hear from people who are adamant about protecting gun rights, if a man wants to buy three guns over the course of the year, he should have that right, and God entitles him to that in the Constitution.

My question is should there be some alert if you buy three guns at 22 years old with no criminal history?

PALUMBO: I don't think -- you hit the nail on the head, no criminal history. You see, part of the flaw in the system is that we're content to give someone a weapon that our military and law enforcement agents use as long as they haven't been convicted of a felony. I have been a proponent of implementing a program or mechanism that requires some type of psychological screening, the same one that we go through in law enforcement before they give us a firearm along with the criminal history check, firearms training and an education as to how you may use this weapon.

But we're at an impasse as we all know. And this has become a political issue instead of an issue of conscience and morality. And I -- this is an exercise at this point of problem solving. We're not in that mode in this culture in any capacity, not with this topic, not with immigration, nothing we look at. It's all about politics, about what side of the aisle you sit on. That's why we're making no headway here.

The tragic part, Victor, this is going to happen again, everybody needs to understand that this is going to happen again.

PAUL: Sobering words.

BLACKWELL: Let that sit in.

Lou Palumbo, thank you so much for spending time with us this morning.

PAUL: We appreciate your insight, sir.

PALUMBO: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: And, of course, we'll have much more on the California shootings ahead, also this major election happening right now in Ukraine. The voters there are defying threats by the pro- Russian militants.

PAUL: And Pope Francis prayed at the separation wall between Bethlehem and Jerusalem today. We're going to tell you what he's saying, next.


BLACKWELL: Coming up on quarter after the hour. Ukraine is deciding its future today. Voters are picking a new president to replace the man kicked out of office in February and then fled to Russia.

PAUL: Now, there are long lines in Ukraine's capital, Kiev, we know. But to the east, it is a very different scene there. Ballots have been burned and a lot of polling sites in eastern Ukraine aren't even open on this big election day.

BLACKWELL: CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto joins us now from the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.

Jim, the question here is, you know, this is a big test. What direction will Ukraine go in? I also want to know, what's the response going to be from Putin? I mean, if ballots are being burned, can he question the legitimacy of this?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, on the first question, you're absolutely right. This is a big test. It's really a choice between instability and peace and a more accountable government. In some ways, it's a choice between east and west. Closer ties to Europe, closer ties to Russia.

There are real tensions in the country. Many Ukrainians we speak to, they're looking for a leader that can lead this country forward -- cleaner government, a united Ukraine, but there are so many challenges.

One of those challenges is the violence you talk about. We spent two days in the east. You have militants shutting down polling stations, intimidating voters.

But you also have good stories happening today. Here in Kiev and in the west, long lines at polling stakes. We found out as of noon local time, about a third through the voting day here, turnout was already 25 percent. So a good start for the rest of the country. But to your second question about Russia, that is a real question because, in effect, beauty will be in the eyes of the beholder, right?

Does Russia decide to see this vote as legitimate? In many ways it's up to President Putin. He did give positive signals saying he believes he will respect to decisions and desires of the Ukrainian people. So, we'll see if he follows through on that promise.

PAUL: Well, we already know there's disruption to the vote in those areas. If we see more of that, how plausible is it more sanctions would be imposed on Russia by the U.S. and Europe?

SCIUTTO: Good question. You'll remember a couple weeks ago President Obama said if Russia or others impede this election, there will be more painful economic costs.

Now, I was speaking to administration officials towards the end of last week, particularly as they were two of the most violent days of the conflict so far, some 40, 50 people killed toward the end of last week. I asked them if that counted as impeded the election, particularly as Ukrainian officials blame that interference on Russia.

And they said they didn't want to prejudice the vote, they wanted to wait to see how today's vote went before they decide on sanctions, but they said those sanctions are teed up and ready to go, if they make a determination that interference from Russia undermined the vote, impeded the vote, undermined the legitimacy. But that's the judgment they say they won't make that decision until after today's election.

PAUL: All right. Jim Sciutto, thank you so much for keeping us up-to-date. We appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Jim.

Pope Francis is on a visit to the Holy Land where he prayed at the separation barrier in Bethlehem.

PAUL: He also held mass in the city and invited leaders of Israel and the Palestinian authority to travel to the Vatican for a, quote, "peace initiative". Now, the office of the Israeli president says it welcomes the invitation and will accept any attempts at peace.

We have a plea from the father of a victim of California shooting rampage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICHARD MARTINEZ, VICTIM'S FATHER: When will enough people say, stop this madness? We don't have to live like this!


BLACKWELL: And he goes on to beg for tighter gun control. You're going to hear more of his emotional words immediately after the loss of his son.


PAUL: Well, the stabbing and shooting is what we've been talking about, rampage at Isla Vista, California, has -- obviously, the victim's families so devastated. I was so surprised that one of the victims, the UC-Santa Barbara student, Christopher Martinez, I was so surprised his father found the wherewithal to get in front of cameras yesterday.

BLACKWELL: If you have not seen this, take a moment and turn toward the television. Martinez was at the local deli when the suspect, Elliot Rodger stepped inside the restaurant and started shooting. The bullets flew everywhere and at least one of them struck Martinez and he bled to death.

PAUL: Now, as I mentioned, his father, Richard Martinez, held a news conference. His anguish was so apparent. Through his grief, though, he had a message.


MARTINEZ: Our son Christopher Martinez and six others are dead. Our family -- our family has a message for everybody parent out there. You don't think it'll happen to your child until it does. Chris was a really great kid, ask anyone who knew him. His death has left our family lost and broken.

Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA. They talk about gun rights. What about Chris' right to live?

When will this insanity stop? When will enough people say stop this madness? We don't have to live like this! Too many have died! We should say to ourselves, not one more!

Thank you. That's it.


PAUL: Whatever side of the aisle you sit on regarding this issue, this political issue, what you're looking at is a father who lost his son and had the strength to stand up and say something about it. I think some respect definitely needs to be given for that alone. I can't imagine as a parent -- I can't imagine.

BLACKWELL: Agree with him politically or do not, but that has to make you feel something. PAUL: Anybody, if you have any family member that you love, you can relate to that man.

Our thoughts and prayers with all of these families today and in the weeks ahead.

We'll be right back.


JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I'm meteorologist Jennifer Gray. We want to say a good morning to Washington, D.C. -- look at that. Blue skies. We're going to have a gorgeous couple of days for this Memorial Day weekend.

Actually the east and the northeast, those are the places to be where we're going to see some storms could be in portions of Texas including Del Rio, San Angelo, Abilene, all the way to Lubbock. That is your severe threat for today. The severe threat for tomorrow stays right here.

Storm Prediction Center has put a slight risk of severe weather for those areas, for possible damaging winds and large hail. So, that's going to be one area, we'll be focusing on as we go through the next two days or so.

And look at these rainfall totals. We could see isolated amounts, four to five inches possibly outside San Angelo. We'll need to be watching for the hill country as we go through the next 48 hours.

Today's forecast, though, nice conditions across the Northeast. High pressure starting to move in. Maybe a few spotty showers. That is it. Could see a few scattered showers in the Southeast as well. Of course, sunny and hot still in the West. That is going to hold true for today and tomorrow.

Memorial Day, much of the country staying nice. A few storms in Texas and some spotty showers in the plains -- guys.

BLACKWELL: All right. Healthy mix. Thank you very much, Jennifer.

PAUL: Absolutely.

Thank you for your service, we say on Memorial Day. And go make some great memories this weekend.