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CNN NEWSROOM

Small Jet Crashes in California; House Democrats Pass Medicare Reform; Violent Crime on the Rise in New Orleans

Aired January 12, 2007 - 15:00   ET

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


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for staying with us here in the NEWSROOM. I'm Kyra Phillips, live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Don Lemon.

The Big Easy, well, it is boiling over with a spike in murders. We're talking live with the president of a citizens crime group in New Orleans.

PHILLIPS: They have gone from Capitol Hill to the slammer, but you are still playing their pensions. Drew Griffin follows up on a story that has got a lot of people all wound up.

LEMON: And we're also keeping tabs on a dangerous ice storm developing across several states. At least one person is dead. A million could lose power.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Straight to Van Nuys, California. Our local affiliate, KCAL, out of L.A. is conducting breaking news coverage. Let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... have now set up a command post on Hayvenhurst. They are trying to decide what their next course of action is.

As we pull out just a little bit, you can see, the wreckage area is probably 100-feet-by-100-feet. Likewise, utility crews on the scene as well, trying to repair some of the downed power lines in the area.

MIA LEE, KCAL ANCHOR: Derek (ph), we saw those -- we those investigators there on the scene.

Joining us right now on the telephone is Ian Gregor from the FAA.

Mr. Gregor, can you hear us?

IAN GREGOR, SPOKESPERSON, FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION: Yes, I can hear you.

LEE: What can you tell about -- what do you know at this point?

GREGOR: Well, I think the only new information I have is, we can confirm there were two fatalities aboard the plane. Other than that, I think you know pretty much everything I know. It was a twin-engine Cessna, a business jet, departing from Van Nuys, heading to Long Beach. At 10:55 a.m., the pilot encountered some kind of emergency right after departure, radioed he needed to make it back to the airport, but crashed before he could -- could make it back, crashed about three-quarters-of-a-mile north of the airport.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And, Mr. Gregor, what can you tell us about those reports that our chopper pilot was telling us about, the open cowling, or perhaps an open baggage door?

GREGOR: Yes. I have absolutely no knowledge of -- of that. I don't know anything about possible cause and -- or what might have happened.

LEE: Sir, are your investigators there? Are you there on the scene right now?

GREGOR: No, I'm not there on the scene. I'm sure we have inspectors out there. And I know NTSB will be responding also.

LEE: How soon could we expect to -- to maybe have an update on more specific information?

GREGOR: I have absolutely no idea.

LEE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ian Gregor of the FAA, thank you very much for the information.

GREGOR: You're -- you're welcome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once again, this plane going down about three-quarters anywhere from a mile -- of a quarter-mile to three- quarters-of-a-mile north of the airport in Van Nuys, just off of Hayvenhurst there.

You can see, the FAA and the NTSB are going to be there for a while investigating exactly what happened.

We will keep Derek Bell (ph) over the scene there. We will continue to keep abreast of what is going on.

LEE: Actually, our Annie Kim (ph) has just arrived there on the scene, just there on Hayvenhurst, I believe.

Annie, what can you see?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, Mia, we have been told to stay away from where the crash scene happened. Now, if we can pan a little bit this way, the sun might be in the way, so I'm not sure if you can get a clear look of exactly what is going on.

But, as you can see, about a block away, we have a few fire trucks. And now let's go to some video, some dramatic video of the incident that happened, we believe, close to 11:00.

Now, we haven't gotten anything confirmed by the fire department or the police, because it just happened. And, obviously, they are probably slammed right now, trying to figure out exactly what happened for themselves.

But we have had a lot of eyewitnesses come up to us and tell us what they saw. One man says he was in the garage near the airport, his friend's house, and said he went outside because he heard a loud noise, and looked up, and saw a private jet, what looked to be a private jet, just engulfed.

And he also described somebody jumping out of that plane. Now, we have not been able to get this confirmed, but he says he saw one person, what looked to be a pilot, jump out of the plane.

And take a listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... saw -- you saw a person jump out of the plane?

(CROSSTALK)

LUKE MABRY, EYEWITNESS: Yes, right before.

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, some dramatic pictures...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MABRY: It looked like the guy jumped out, like he knew he was having engine problems.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(CROSSTALK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MABRY: ... really loud, because I was out front right here by my friend's house. So, then, when -- when he jumped out, it looked like he was trying to avoid hitting houses. And...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, he was -- he jumped out as the plane was still in the air?

MABRY: Right, like a good maybe 40 feet before it actually hit the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, you saw a body just coming out of a plane?

MABRY: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it landed on him?

MABRY: The plane did, yes. It looks like the plane landed right next to him or on top of him, because it happened so fast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What...

MABRY: It happened so fast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your reaction. What did you -- what did you think? Could you believe your eyes?

MABRY: Yes. I just knew someone died -- just engine problems.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What...

(CROSSTALK)

MABRY: I don't know what kind of problems he was having.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Describe...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, again back here live at the command post.

We have not able -- been able to get that information confirmed, but we will try, and hopefully get back to you before the newscast is over. But the guy said he did see someone, what looked to be a pilot, jump out of the plane.

Now, I talked to the public-relations person from the Van Nuys Airport, and they said this crash happened outside of the airport, along the side street, on Hayvenhurst. So, therefore, this is not their jurisdiction.

The city fire department is taking care of this. So, hopefully, we can get a statement from the police or the fire department in the next few minutes.

Reporting live in Van Nuys, Annie Kim, KCAL 9 News -- back to you...

PHILLIPS: Following breaking news coverage out of Los Angeles there, the local affiliate, KCAL, following what we have been reporting in the past 45 minutes or so. That is this downed aircraft, a Cessna 525 jet, that went down not far from the Van Nuys Airport, as it was headed to Long Beach. We did get new information there. The twin engine on its way to Long Beach, California, coming from Van Nuys.

And, apparently, the pilot knew that he was having some problems. He radioed in, said he wanted to turn around. And in the process of that is when the plane crashed. He knew that he had a problem. He radioed in, but wasn't able to turn it around and get it back. Meanwhile, it crashed about a half-mile there from the airport.

NTSB is supposed to be headed that way for the investigation. We will continue to follow this.

T.J. Holmes has been watching those live pictures straight from the newsroom there. He was the first to bring us to the story.

And -- and I got to tell you, T.J., you know, we broke into the -- the breaking coverage there, and obviously the reporter interviewing someone there on the street, possibly an eyewitness.

What he was saying about a pilot jumping out of the airplane...

T.J. HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah.

PHILLIPS: ... is -- is pretty much near impossible. So, we got to be careful when we report things like that.

HOLMES: Yes.

That's certainly something that makes your ears perk up, and have you scratching your head. It doesn't sound like something we ever heard before.

We are going to try to actually get -- get someone who could maybe give us more insight on that.

Jon Regas is a pilot who knows that area, knows this aircraft.

Jon, if you can -- we certainly were shaking and scratching our heads when we heard that comment from an eyewitness. Who knows what he may or may not have seen.

But, when you hear somebody say that a pilot, or someone, possibly jumped out of a plane that was going down, does that sound like something that is even possible?

JON REGAS, PILOT: I would doubt it. And -- and, while I don't wish to cast -- cast dispersions on the eyewitness, he may have seen something else...

HOLMES: Yes.

REGAS: ... fall off the plane.

And someone mentioned something about an open cowling. HOLMES: Yes, we have been hearing that, too.

REGAS: And that is what contains the engine.

And you may recall, earlier, I asked about this plane that had recent maintenance done. The cowling is akin to, like, the hood of your car...

HOLMES: OK.

REGAS: ... except it's specially designed for the jet engine. And, if they had been working on the engine and didn't properly fasten it...

HOLMES: Ah.

REGAS: ... it's possible that, during the takeoff, the cowling ripped apart, and ripped off, and that is what the witness saw.

HOLMES: OK.

REGAS: However, a pilot would not leave the controls of the plane, number one. This kind of plane doesn't have -- the pilots wouldn't be wearing parachutes.

It -- it's virtually impossible, in my mind, that the pilots left their crew stations and tried to jump out. The fact that they mentioned on the radio they had a problem, and they wanted to circle back to land, means they had time to speak on the radio, and they weren't dealing so dramatically with the problem.

Now, having said that, if they had one engine fail on takeoff, the plane should be controllable and flyable back for an emergency landing with no big problem.

HOLMES: All right.

REGAS: That doesn't mean they couldn't lose control of the plane.

HOLMES: OK.

REGAS: That doesn't mean that, if work had been done on the flight controls of the plane just prior to that takeoff, flight controls might have somehow been hampered.

I -- this is an amazing crash. It's a densely populated area, Van Nuys-Burbank region. We can all imagine what -- what that is like. It's very fortunate that they appeared not to hit a building.

HOLMES: And tell us again -- you were mentioning this earlier -- that this plane is quite forgiving. This...

REGAS: Generally...

HOLMES: Generally, it is. REGAS: This kind of plane is relatively forgiving. All airplanes can be mishandled in one way or another.

But the fact that they had time to talk about it on the radio with the control tower makes me think that the situation was relatively under control, and then something else happened...

HOLMES: OK.

REGAS: ... to compromise it.

HOLMES: Talk to us again -- you said this area -- or this airport, this is a place where -- where planes often -- you -- you have been talking about this maintenance. You said that was the first thing that kind of came to your mind, that, possibly, this plane, since it only had two -- two people on it, maybe just the two crew, it appears, that it was there for some kind of maintenance at this airport.

REGAS: It's just possible.

There are a number of very reputable maintenance shops there. And that is the first thing that came to my mind. Whenever an airplane comes out of maintenance -- going into maintenance, usually, there aren't any problems.

But, if a mechanic makes a mistake, forgets to tighten something, forgets a fuel line connection properly done -- again, this is just speculation at this point. But the first thing that comes to my mind is, what was the recent maintenance history? And that means today or yesterday.

HOLMES: And it's a really short flight as well. What is that from -- from Van Nuys to -- to Long Beach, how long did you say that was again? How long was that...

(CROSSTALK)

REGAS: The direct distance is less than 30 nautical miles, and, let's say, at less than 40 statute mile.

HOLMES: OK.

REGAS: Now, it...

HOLMES: How long should that take? Minutes.

REGAS: In minutes -- because of the unique Los Angeles area traffic, it could take up to 20, 25 minutes.

Now, if they were on a very reduced fuel load...

HOLMES: Uh-huh.

REGAS: ... that is one thing that comes to mind. But there was a fire. If there had been no fire afterwards, I would have said they might have been short on fuel. But there was fire. So, that -- that sort of is discounted. However, one has to know the way the -- again, if there had been any maintenance done. And that's -- and that is the -- the first thing that comes to my mind.

HOLMES: Are -- are pilots trained in this situation? We don't know what the situation, what the emergency, was. You certainly say you -- you think that it seemed like it may have been controllable, or -- or what not, since they had time, or -- or -- or were conscious enough of mind to say, all right, we're going to just turn around and land this thing.

Is -- is that what you're trained to do, to -- to go to quickest spot and, I guess, just turn around and land this thing, and see what is going on, no way to -- I guess, to proceed on, since it was just a short flight, and -- and see if we can make it? You're trained to turn this thing around and put it back on the ground?

REGAS: Federal regulations require a two-engine airplane that loses one of its engines to land at the nearest suitable landing field. And I would think that that would be the airport that you took off from. And that is almost always the case.

HOLMES: All right.

REGAS: Having said that, again, the fact that they were able to communicate it on the radio that there was a problem means that the problem was somewhat under control.

If they had been completely out of control, they wouldn't have had time to talk on the radio.

REGAS: OK.

Well, Jon Regas, a pilot we have been -- we sure do appreciate you allowing us to tap into your expertise and helping us here. And I hope you will stick around here. We may be needing that expertise a little more here, as we get more information about this crash.

But, again, the line here is that we now know that two people -- it appears two crew that were on this Cessna flight, this Cessna 525 Citation business jet that was heading from Van Nuys Airport to Long Beach about an hour ago crashed, and those people did die in this crash -- so, again, information still coming into us.

But that is certainly the headline right now. For now, I will hand it back to you guys over at the desk.

LEMON: And, T.J., certainly good to have that -- that gentleman on to...

HOLMES: Yes.

LEMON: ... clear up some of that information, especially about someone jumping out of an airplane. It just sounds extremely unusual. So, thanks to him, and thanks to you, as well. We will keep checking back.

Oklahoma, on ice, and it's not the musical -- up next in the NEWSROOM, details on the storm front that is nothing to sing about.

And punching the clock on Capitol Hill -- the Democrats are focused on the first 100 hours special. And so is the NEWSROOM -- a status report from Washington just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Live pictures from our affiliate, WPVI out of Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania.

This is the word that we're getting in. This school bus had hit several students on foot, and then hit a retaining wall. We're told that seven children were taken to area hospitals with minor injuries.

Not quite sure what the deal was with this bus, and if somebody was -- was on board, driving that bus. This is Falls Township Public -- or Pennsbury High School, rather -- Pennsbury High School -- in Falls Township, Pennsylvania.

We have very little information right now, except that we're told that the Pennsbury High School administrator said that seven students were taken to area hospitals with minor injuries, after this school bus hit them as they were walking across the parking lot.

Will -- we will follow up and try and bring you more information as we get it.

LEMON: House Democrats still on schedule to deliver on a campaign promise, six new bills in their first 100 hours in charge.

And joining us now in Washington, CNN's Brianna Keilar -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Don.

So, today's bill did pass. And here is what it's all about. As it stands right now, prescription drug prices for seniors covered by Medicare Part D are determined by competition between drug companies. This bill would instead require the government to negotiate drug prices. So, it passed. It cruised through the House easily, 255-170.

But it's very likely it won't get through the Senate without significant changes, perhaps allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, but not forcing it to.

President Bush has also threatened to veto the bill in its current form. Many Democrats and at least two dozen Republicans, including Representative Dan Burton, say that it will save seniors money. Burton's first wife died of breast cancer about five years ago. And this is the story he recounted today on the House floor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DAN BURTON (R), INDIANA: We were sitting in a room with about five women that were getting their chemotherapy. And there was this one lady who was kind of complaining, and actually had a few tears in her eyes.

And she said that she had to pay $350 a month for tamoxifen, which was a drug of choice. And a lady about three seats away from her said: Well, I get mine from Canada for $50.

The point I'm trying to make is, the -- the -- the price that is charged around the world is much less for the very same product, pharmaceutical product, than it is here in the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Some experts are actually questioning if this bill would save seniors money. And many Republicans oppose it, because they say forcing Medicare to negotiate prices could result in Medicare having to limit the drugs available to seniors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM MCCRERY (R), LOUISIANA: Currently, Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in a drug plan have access to drugs to treat cancer, mental illness, HIV-AIDS, Lou Gehrig's disease, and Alzheimer's, to name a few. They're guaranteed that. HO-4 -- HR-4 does not guarantee that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: And the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday that, if this bill becomes law, seniors probably won't be paying any less than for their meds than they are now, certainly not what supporters of this bill were hoping to hear -- Don.

LEMON: And, Brianna, Veterans Administration, it can negotiate drug prices, can provide cheaper medication than Medicare does. Did the House have anything to say about that?

KEILAR: You know, what is interesting about this, Don, is, the VA program is what both sides are using to make their argument.

On one hand, you have proponents of this bill saying, look, they negotiate drug prices, and drugs are cheaper. For instance, popular drugs like Zocor and Celebrex, you can save hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars per year on those drugs. But the VA secures those prices by promising drug companies they are not going to provide competing drugs.

So, then, you have people who are against this bill, saying, it's the perfect example of limiting choice in prescription drug care. For instance, Lipitor, which is a widely used cholesterol-lowering drug, is not available under the VA's plan.

LEMON: All right. Got it. Brianna Keilar, thank you so much. PHILLIPS: First the hurricane, then the flood -- now a deadly crime wave is wreaking havoc on New Orleans. As the statistics pile up, residents say they're fed up -- a live interview next in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Straight to the newsroom -- T.J. Holmes working more details on that plane crash out of Van Nuys Airport -- T.J.

HOLMES: Yes.

We're trying to learn more, actually, about this -- this airport, certainly, this aircraft that went down. But, again, we -- we do know now that two people did die in this crash, two people. It appears to be the crew of this Cessna 525 business jet that went down just a little over an hour ago on takeoff from the Van Nuys Airport.

Pilots reported some kind of emergency on board, were trying to turn it around and land at the airport, but went down in the process, crashed about a half-mile north of that airport there in Van Nuys.

We're going to talk to Lars Perkins now, a -- a pilot, who is joining from us Pasadena, who is certainly familiar with this -- with this airport, flies in and out of there.

Lars, thank you for giving us some time here.

If you can, first -- we have been looking at these pictures. We have seen some of the shots zoomed out. But give us an idea of, if you do get in trouble at this airport, and you have some issues, what is around that airport? Do you have a lot that you're trying to avoid. And I guess there -- there are a lot of areas where there might be a lot of people around.

LARS PERKINS, PILOT: Well, it certainly is a very built-up area. There's a lot of industrial parks, a lot of residential homes.

Normally, you're taking off to the south, because the wind is normally from the south. And there's a golf course at the southern end. But, unfortunately, today, they were taking off towards the north.

And north of the airport, there is really not much there, except for residential homes and -- and industrial parks. So, it's not an easy place to try to make a safe emergency landing.

HOLMES: Talk to us now about this issue. We -- we -- we got reports, at least -- at least some eyewitnesses saying that the baggage door was open on this Cessna 525 as it took off. We don't know that, haven't -- don't know that for sure.

And it hasn't been determined yet by the officials, but at least several eyewitnesses are reporting that. If the baggage door was open on an aircraft taking off, what kind of havoc would that cause on the plane for the pilot? PERKINS: Well, the havoc, normally, would be mostly psychological.

It's unusual for a baggage door to really play a structural role in the integrity of the aircraft, although it might have in this particular case. I don't know enough about the aerodynamics of the Citation to say for sure.

But I can say that, in a lot of cases, a frequent cause of accidents in smaller aircraft is just something as simple as a door being left unlatched, which just causes real commotion, a lot of air, unusual noises. And that can be a great distraction to pilots, as they try to figure out what is going -- and it's the distraction which is really the killer, rather than the actual door being left open.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: So, that is something that can be -- that can be corrected? You say it -- it might throw you off pretty bad, but, for the most part, just because the door is open, that doesn't mean, necessarily, that the -- the plane can't be flown?

PERKINS: Not necessarily, although I have to question that -- it would vary by the type of aircraft.

And, perhaps, in this case, it could cause -- in the case of a Citation, it may indeed have some aerodynamic implications. But...

HOLMES: OK.

PERKINS: ... most of time, in smaller aircraft, what it just causes is -- is a heck of a lot of noise.

And what the -- the object of the game is to remain calm, just bring the airplane around in a big circle, land it, correct the problem, and take off again.

HOLMES: OK.

Well, Lars Perkins, a pilot who is certainly familiar with this -- with this airport, we appreciate your expertise here, might tap into it again here shortly.

Need to tell our viewers, as well, that we are anticipating a press conference from the NTSB about this crash, certainly hoping to stand by and possibly bring that to you live, when we know for sure when that is coming up. We understand we should expect one here shortly.

But that's the latest from here -- for now, guys, back to you.

PHILLIPS: All right, T.J., thanks. We will keep checking in.

LEMON: First the hurricane, then the flood -- now a deadly crime wave is wreaking havoc on New Orleans. As the stats pile up, residents say they are fed up -- a live interview next in the CNN NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: But, first, we all know that a picture may be worth 1,000 words, a second career in photography.

Meanwhile, the -- just as intriguing, in today's "Life After Work," we find someone who is putting that to the test.

Here's CNN's Ali Velshi.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As a professional nature photographer, 73-year-old Carlene Reinhart travels the globe in search of memorable images.

CARLENE REINHART, NATURE PHOTOGRAPHER: We were in Africa, and I got marvelous shots of a lion fight.

This picture, I took in Fiji on a -- a reef. I love it, because all the fish are headed in the same direction.

VELSHI: Carlene's interest in photography began in her 50s on a scuba trip.

REINHART: We were diving in the South Pacific. And I had some good pictures. And I thought, wow, if I could do this -- I ought to be able to do some really good stuff if I got a better camera.

VELSHI: So, she spent about $1,000 to upgrade her equipment and started taking classes.

REINHART: I found that, once I started taking pictures, I looked at things differently. That's been the beauty of it.

VELSHI: Carlene practiced her hobby while still working at her career in organization design and development. After rolling over her company retirement into an IRA that really paid off, she was able to retire and devote more time to photography.

REINHART: I love it. It is the most rewarding experience.

VELSHI: Carlene sells her photos on her Web site, at markets, and by word of mouth.

REINHART: I hope my photography hangs on lots of people's walls.

VELSHI: Ali Velshi, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: We've been reporting on that small plane crash, private business jet, that crashed out of Van Nuys, airport. We're expect a news conferences any moment. We will take that live. Just to bring you up to date, this Cessna 525 went down not far from the Van Nuys airport. The pilot had radioed in that he was having trouble, wanted to turn around and land. At that point that's when the plane crashed. Two people killed on board that plane. NTSB is heading out to investigate. We will take that news conference live when it happens.

LEMON: Young, old, black, white, rich, poor, angry: thousands of New Orleans residents say enough is enough. Nine people murdered since New Year's Day. Yesterday, demonstrators marched on City Hall with a message for the mayor, police chief and the district attorney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shame on you Mayor Nagin, Superintendent Riley, District Attorney Jordan, you have really let us down!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE; If we don't address crime now before we know it, there won't be a Mardi Gras, they will be picking you up off the floor. Stop the violence now!

MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: We're drawing a line in the sand and saying we have had it. It's time for change. And we are making the changes necessary to bring our city to the next level.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Rafael Goyeneche oversees a Louisiana citizens group dedicated to exposing and eliminating public corruption. Thanks for joining us now. Just -- I want to tell you, we're waiting on a press conference to happen about that plane crash in California. So we may have to cut you off so we apologize in advance if that does happen.

But it sounds, Mr. Goyeneche, like folks in New Orleans are just fed up.

RAFAEL GOYENECHE, METROPOLITAN CRIME COMMISSION: Right. I mean, we're dealing with problems, not just post-Katrina. This has been a decades problem, exposed in made worse by the hurricane and yesterday's march was really unprecedented from a citizens standpoint. It was a total role reversal where the citizens got up and preached and expressed their outrage to their politician and their politicians sat and listened.

So I think it was a very sobering moments for our political justice and political leadership, but a very empowering moment for our community that is commanding more leadership and more results from a public safety perspective.

LEMON: And talk about what you said. New Orleans, obviously, no stranger to crime that many times in history, it's been one of the murder capitals of the country. So it's no stranger to crime.

You're saying that the hurricane exposed an underbelly to New Orleans that most people ignored for years? GOYENECHE: Right. The dysfunctionality of our criminal justice system was a very, very real issue. But it wasn't really widely known by the general populous.

Since the storm, I think this community has become more engaged on some of the root causes, as well as discovering why crime is at the levels that it is in New Orleans right now. And as such, they become very knowledgeable about the criminal justice system.

And with that knowledge, they are now demanding that the inefficiencies within the police department, within the district attorney's office, within the courts and within the corrections system be addressed. And they're demanding that their leaders do something or there were threats yesterday that basically they will elect someone that will hear their call and do something positive to make our community safer.

LEMON: We'll get to the mayor, but let's talk about perception. And just so you know, I'm from that area and I went there for the holidays with my family. My sister did not want to go to New Orleans with our family because she thought that she would be possibly shot on the street.

I have letters from viewers who say, you know, you guys come to town, media comes to town and they do live shots in front of the worst home in the Ninth Ward and it's not good for tourism and that is not everything happening in New Orleans. Do you think that the portrayal of New Orleans is fair in the media?

GOYENECHE: Well, all you have to do is look at the clippings from yesterday. You had thousands of people descending upon city hall, a cross-section from the four corners of this city: black, white, everything in between, rich, poor, walking with a common cause saying that enough is enough, crime is at unacceptably high levels.

So I think that, in many respects, our leadership was in denial about the true realities of crime as well as the public's willingness to accept the status quo. Yesterday was a wake-up call.

LEMON: Absolutely. I think you're correct on that.

I think that the French Quarter really is sort of the landmark place in New Orleans and is doing very well, but outside of that, people don't really know about what is happening in New Orleans.

Let's talk about how the police department and the management of the city, they're going to get a handle on this crime. Yesterday, the mayor saying he's announcing several initiatives in a press conference talking about possible curfews and what have you. Let's take a listen and then we'll talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NAGIN: Today, we are not issuing a mandatory curfew but between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. primarily, which we consider to be the hours when a significant amount of violent crime is happening, we will be doing very aggressive drug and alcohol checkpoints throughout the city.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Is it enough? And will it help?

GOYENECHE: Will it help? Yes. Is it enough in and of itself? Absolutely not.

And I think there is that recognition by the political leadership. That's not to say the press conference that was held I think on Tuesday of this week by the mayor and the criminal justice officials, that was not everything they are doing, that was just a few of the highlights of what is being done.

I think what has been the problem with our political leadership is every time there is a catastrophic headline, there's a knee jerk reaction to go out and say, well, we're going to launch a new initiative. And I think the public has realized that in many instances, that is a public relations response.

And what the message that they were sending yesterday is that they want to hear a concise well thought out, short-term medium range...

LEMON: Mr. Goyeneche, I apologize. As I said at the top we were awaiting a press conference and we have to cut you off. Sorry. Thank you for joining us today.

PHILLIPS: Straight to Van Nuys now. They're briefing us on that plane crash.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good afternoon. Lieutenant Tyrone Stallings, Los Angeles Airport Police, Van Nuys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The other two officers have just introduced themselves are the other two unified commanders commanding all operations for this incident.

At approximately 10:54 this morning, fire department resources were dispatched to the 8500 block of North Haven Hurst Avenue in the San Fernando Valley just north of the Van Nuys Airport.

Upon arrival, we discovered a downed aircraft with a significant amount of flames showing. Our resources from the ground using foam application and water were able to extinguish those flames in very short order.

The resulting impact of the aircraft is limited to approximately a one square block area. Perimetered by Hayvenhurst on the west, Napa on the north and Roscoe on the south and one block to the east.

The impact did effect utilities in the area, and high tension wires, those are being controlled right now through a cooperative effort with other agencies such as the Department of Water and Power.

The incident is such, upon knockdown of the flames, our ground resources were able to move in closer to the aircraft and we have been able to confirm that there are two fatalities associated with this incident. From the city family, our condolences go to the family members of those two victims.

The complexity of this incident requires a comprehensive command team be put together. A unified command team consisting of representatives from the fire department, police department, and airport police department are working collectively to bring our resources to bear on this incident and bring us successful outcome to it.

Our concerns during this operational period are to ensure that the utilities is stabilized and they pose no threat to the community, and that those utilities are restored in quick order so that power is restored to the area and telephone services are restored.

The perimeter area is being evacuated, and medical resources remain on scene should additional or any medical needs arise with the form of injuries. Fire suppression resources remain on the scene with hand lines in place to insure that the fires remains extinguished and if any flare-ups do occur, those are doused immediately.

Within our command structure, the law enforcement aspect are initiating their phase of the investigation. The investigation will be headed by the NTSB who are en route at this time. However, we do know that there are no reports of any criminal activity or terrorist type activity associated with this incident.

The aircraft was a jet aircraft. It was an aircraft that carried up to five people. At this point in time, we can only confirm that two souls were on board. It was reported that the aircraft carried a full load of fuel of 3,400 pounds of jet fuel, which continues to be a concern for us and why we continue to remain on the scene with our fire suppression and hazardous materials resources.

That concludes my statement and I can answer any questions you may have.

QUESTION: I'm sorry, you said that there's an evacuation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we -- first off, we identified a perimeter that I explained earlier, and we evacuated the interior of that perimeter.

QUESTION: What about operations at Van Nuys Airport at this particular time? Are they inhibited in any way, shape, or form?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was reported to me by Van Nuys Airport management that airport operations are continuing.

QUESTION: Can you confirm the type of aircraft?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Only that it was a twin engine or jet engine aircraft. That's all the information I have at this point in time. Recognizing that this incident -- it will be under investigate.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have that information.

QUESTION: You don't know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have that, no.

QUESTION: Were they working for a company or was it a private jet?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have that information either. The investigation is in the very beginning stages at this point in time.

QUESTION: What do you think about what general -- where they were going?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, that information continues. We're trying to collect that information right now.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was one report to us that the aircraft did report to the control tower that they were experiencing some difficulties prior to the accident.

QUESTION: Did they say what type of difficulties?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not that I'm aware of. I don't know. We don't have that information.

QUESTION: What about reports to the cargo area?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is a piece of information that we have heard but, again, this incident is under investigation and, of course, that is one aspect of it that will be looked into.

QUESTION: Did they say how many people have been evacuated or should be evacuated?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fortunately for us, the aircraft went down in an area of the San Fernando Valley that is sparsely populated as you can see, primarily a field area. I don't have the exact area of the number of residents that were evacuated from that -- from our perimeter.

QUESTION: Will you have another briefing anytime soon?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We'll have another media briefing at 3:00 in the afternoon. Same location.

QUESTION: Same location.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have an exact time on that. I know that the utility companies are on the scene working aggressively to get them restored as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: Any idea how long the people will be evacuated from their homes or when they might be able to go back?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're hopeful that our investigation -- or the investigation can reach a point where we can have people return to their homes this evening.

QUESTION: You said there were 3,400 pounds of jet fuel on board and it's still a concern. Why? You don't believe it's all burned off?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is a concern, yes. We do know that some of it did, in fact, burn off, but we still have odor of jet fuel in the area and, consequently, we keep our fire suppression resources in place and a hazardous materials task force in place to ensure that hazardous material spill is contained, appropriately identified, and brought to a static situation.

OK, Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Los Angeles City fire chief briefing reporters there just real briefly, confirming everything that we've already reported. Two fatalities in the Cessna 525 jet that went down just outside Van Nuys Airport there in Southern California.

Apparently, the pilot knew that he was having some sort of problems. He radioed in. Wanted to turn the aircraft around and go back, wasn't able to do that. As you can see, the result of what happened there.

The NTSB will be heading the investigation. Right now, the chief saying what they're most concerned about is all of the fuel, because this jet had a full tank. They're concerned about all of the fuel in the area. They're going to try and get that cleaned up, also get power lines back up and clear that area. It's going to take quite a bit of time. We'll let you know more information as we get it. We'll keep following it.

LEMON: Yes, and we will be back after this. Don't go anywhere.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Five years ago this week, the first plane load of detainees arrived at the soon-to-be infamous Guantanamo Bay Detention Center. Activists mark the anniversary with worldwide protests. In Cuba, almost a dozen protesters, including Cindy Sheehan, marched toward the U.S. naval base, demanding the prison be closed. More than 770 detainees have been held at Gitmo, hundreds have been released, only ten have been charged with crimes.

The man in charge of Guantanamo Bay is Rear Adm. Harry Harris. He rarely gives interviews about what goes on there, but recently I spoke with him in an exclusive and candid interview. I asked him how the decision is made about who stays and who goes at Gitmo.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REAR ADM. HARRY B. HARRIS, JR., CMDR, JOINT TASK FORCE, GUANTANAMO: Well, I don't make the decision. I make a recommendation into the process, whereby the decision is rendered.

PHILLIPS: What do you base your recommendation on?

HARRIS: My recommendation is based on, essentially, three things: It's based on the threat of whether the detainee will return to the fight if he is released or transferred to another country and subsequently released.

The second thing I base my recommendation on is his intelligence value -- is there more significant, more relevant intelligence to be gleaned from this detainee or has he told us everything that he's going to tell us?

The third thing is his demeanor in the camp -- has he been a persistent threat to the guard force? Because that's a good indication of whether he is going to continue to threaten U.S. forces back in the fight.

So we look at behavior in the camps, we look at intelligence value, and we look at whether we think that he is going to go back to the fight, once released. You might not know this, but there are many detainees that we have released since Guantanamo opened in 2002.

In fact, we have released or transferred to home countries 377 detainees. You know, we only have about 395 detainees. It won't be long before the number of detainees that we have released or transferred exceed the number of detainees that we have.

But every time we do that, every time we release or transfer a detainee out of Guantanamo, we are assuming a measure of risk that that detainee is going to go back to the fight. And in fact, 20 or so have gone back to the fight. We know this because some of them have been killed, returning to the fight, trying to kill Americans.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: Some of the detainees have gone on hunger strikes and some have been force-fed through tubes. Is this humane treatment? The admiral says absolutely. Wait till you hear why he says he can personally vouch for that. More of my exclusive interview with Admiral Harris right here in THE NEWSROOM on Monday.

LEMON: Let's get an update on a developing story we've been following all afternoon -- new details for us. T.J. Holmes, what do you have?

HOLMES: We're still updating folks on what is happening there. We just saw that press conference a short time ago. Again, this is out of southern California, Van Nuys Airport, where we saw this small plane crash. This was a business jet, a Cessna 525 Citation jet, two people on board. This is what you're looking at now, the picture of what that plane looks like. We've been able to track down, using the tail number of that jet -- found these pictures on the Internet from Sun Quest Executive Air Charter, this Cessna 525. But that is the picture of it.

Sun Quest is a company there in southern California, been operating out of there since the early '90s, which specializes in giving executives and what-not short trips or whatever their travel needs, from spot-to-spot, hop-to-hop or whatever it may be. But that was the actual plane that you just saw.

But again, two people -- the crew apparently died in this crash, according to officials, but this is a story still, a lot of answers we need to get on this story. Just wanted to give you one last update and show you the picture of that plane that we were able to track down.

Guys?

LEMON: A lot more detail still to come on that. Thank you very much, T.J.

PHILLIPS: Closing bell and a wrap of the action on Wall Street, straight ahead with Susan Lisovicz.

LEMON: What is black and white and kind of red all over? A baby panda with biscuit juice on her neck, what else? She is causing big NEWSROOM distraction today. Your dose of pandacam just ahead!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Look at that! It's Friday. A lot of big news. It's time to take it down a notch. Look how cute, curious and cuddly and finally, ready to meet her many fans. Mei Lan went before the cameras -- that is her name, Mei Lan -- she went before the cameras today at Zoo Atlanta, crawling around for reporters while her mother sat back and chewed on bamboo.

The two have been in seclusion since the giant panda cub was born four months ago, someone is telling me in my ear. This is a live -- live -- pandacam you can logon and check it out.

You may be wondering about the pinkish tinge on her neck. Zoo Atlanta tells us it is `biscuit drool.' What else? Of course it's biscuit drool. Seriously, the mom eats special biscuits, which are red, and then she licks Mei Lan.

PHILLIPS: All right -- about a million dollars a week for the next five years, and David Beckham is just getting started. This summer, the world's most famous soccer star will move his game to the U.S. The newest member of the L.A. Galaxy will earn an astronomical quarter billion dollars, if you believe the estimates. But he says it's not about the money.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVID BECKHAM, SOCCER PLAYER: I'm coming there not to be the superstar. I'm coming there to be part of the team, to work hard and hopefully to win things, and that is what I'm going to be all about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Susan Lisovicz is paying close attention to him, too -- 31 years old, says his greatest passion is working with kids. We hear his wife, a former Spice Girl, already has been in L.A. house shopping. I'm sorry, Susan. I hear he is still really in love with her. I'm sorry!

LEMON: And Susan, she is sitting here going, when the guy's reading -- hmm, hmm.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have seen him in his soccer uniform, and then we've seen him wearing less than his soccer uniform in some publications, and I imagine that the scrutiny will continue or increase here in the United States, right? That's what we're talking about, right?

PHILLIPS: I don't think it's going to be a problem for the ladies.

LISOVICZ: No. But we like him in New York, because he has three sons with Posh Spice, and the first -- the oldest of the three -- is named Brooklyn, apparently for where that child was conceived. So we have a special connection. He has a special connection to New York and one of its most famous boroughs.

PHILLIPS: We need to play the Beastie Boys song. Maybe Otis can pull that one out. "Fun Night in Brooklyn," we'll change the lyrics. Take it away, Susan.

(MARKET REPORT)

LISOVICZ: Now let's go to THE SITUATION ROOM and Wolf.

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