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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Deadly Vegas Courthouse Shooting; Inaugural Terror Threat; Christmas Bomber Ties; Cheney vs. President Obama; Christmas Miracle
Aired January 4, 2010 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tonight, breaking news: a name and a motive in the shooting that terrorized a Las Vegas federal building today left one hero wounded, another one dead. You're going to see some remarkable video that was actually taken during the shooting. And you'll hear from a gun-carrying judge about why courtrooms have become so dangerous.
Also tonight: "Digging Deeper" into a chilling story just now coming to light about a terror threat thought to be a credible one against President Obama on Inauguration Day. We're going to speak with a reporter who broke the story.
And later up, "Up Close": what is being called a Christmas miracle. A mom who was thought to have died during childbirth and her baby who was also born dead, both came back to life. You're going to meet the mom and her beautiful miracle child.
"First Up", though, the breaking news: new information about the shooting at the federal courthouse in Las Vegas today. Namely, who did it and why. That's what we've learned at this hour.
It happened at 8:00 this morning, a lone gunman opening fire with a shotgun in the lobby of the federal courthouse. U.S. marshals and a security guards returned fire. A guard was killed. The gunman was killed, a marshal was wounded. All of it was captured on cell phone video by a man on his way out of the courthouse after a jury summons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shooting outside of the Las Vegas courthouse. Holy (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
Hell of a morning for jury duty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Amazing how calm the man who took those pictures seems to be. CNN has learned that the shooter was Johnny Wicks, a senior citizen angry over his social security benefits case. He burned his house down before going to the courthouse suggesting he maybe knew this was going to be a one-way trip.
The court building was also home to the offices of Harry Reid and John Ensign, Nevada's two senators. A new report just out today coincidentally shows courthouse violence is a growing concern.
Get this, in 2003 according to the Justice Department there were 592 threats against judges and prosecutors. But by 2008 the most recent year, there's a data for that, that number had risen to 1,278.
Joining us now is Judge Suzanne Childers of Jefferson County, Alabama.
Judge, you've become so concerned about safety in your courtroom, you've begun actually carrying a gun into the courtroom with you. How bad is it?
JUDGE SUZANNE CHILDERS, JEFFERSON COUNTY, ALABAMA: Well, it's a concern. Those concerns started in October when we had cutbacks and when we no longer had security guards -- well, we have security -- when we no longer had deputy sheriffs with us.
COOPER: So you have no bailiffs or type of security in the actual courtroom?
CHILDERS: No, sir, we do not. We originally had two deputy sheriffs who sat outside our door and we had two sheriffs for three domestic relations judges and the cutbacks took those away.
So now we have security guards, but the problem with the security guards is they are not trained. They are not bonded. They have no arrest capability.
COOPER: So when you heard that story today about this shooter in the courthouse and you saw that video and you're hearing the sounds of the gunfire, I mean, what goes through your mind?
CHILDERS: Well, it's a terrifying situation. I don't know that it's any worse now than it has always been. But the problem now is we don't have the security that we once have had.
COOPER: I mean, the Justice Department says that, you know, a threat against federal judges and prosecutors have more than doubled in the last six years. Do you think it's just -- it's being better reported or do you think the crimes are -- or the threats are actually increasing?
CHILDERS: Well, I don't know. I do know that there has been a problem for years. It hasn't been that long ago that a federal judge was killed here in Birmingham.
COOPER: How common is it for a judge to carry a firearm into the courtroom?
CHILDERS: More common than you think. My predecessors carried them, and there are a lot of judges with guns.
COOPER: You haven't actually had to use it or even threaten it, have you?
CHILDERS: No, I haven't. And I pray every day that I never have to use it.
COOPER: What made you decide to take that step?
CHILDERS: In October we were informed that there were going to be cutbacks. And we received a memo stating that the court attendants, court attendants are the two girls that work for me that weigh about 100 pounds each, that they would have the duties of securing the courtroom and the adjacent rooms prior to the public entering. And...
COOPER: So that was something previously a bailiff had done and now they're just saying well, court workers should do that?
CHILDERS: No, no, no. It's been a long, long time since we've had bailiffs in domestic relations court in Birmingham. We've had deputy sheriffs.
CHILDERS: And that's what they would do prior to this.
COOPER: Ok. Well...
CHILDERS: But the memo also said that the judge could carry a gun if we became certified.
COOPER: And that's what you did?
CHILDERS: So I decided -- that's what I did.
Well, Judge Suzanne Childers, I appreciate you being on tonight on a difficult day for -- court officers around the country. Thank you.
CHILDERS: Yes. Thank you.
COOPER: One other note, if you want, you can read and see some incredible eyewitness accounts of the shooting today in Las Vegas, by going to AC360.com. And while you're there, of course you can join the live chat now under way, AC360.com.
Up next, a terror threat against President Obama believed to be a credible one. Now, we take you inside what we have now just learned today were the chilling moments leading up to his inauguration.
This was a terror threat. They believed it was going to happen on Inauguration Day. It was believed the then president-elect and his family could be targeted.
We'll have details from the reporter who broke the story. And later, he's being called a miracle baby. You're going to meet him tonight. Hear from his father and his mom about how this little baby and mom came back from near death.
COOPER: President Obama's inauguration made history. Tonight we're learning how different it looked from the inside, different and terrifying. Details just now coming to light about a threat believed to be credible at the time to turn it into a bloodbath.
The story being reported on the pages in an upcoming edition of "The New York Times" magazine; its author, Peter Baker joins us now by phone.
Peter, what was the alleged threat and how seriously did officials take it?
PETER BAKER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" (via telephone): Well, it was -- intelligence indicated there were a group of Somalis who intended to come to Washington to detonate explosives on the National Mall where the President of the United States, of course, would be taking the Oath of Office on January 20th and addressing the world with his inaugural address.
They took it quite seriously in the last 48 to 72 hours before the inauguration. Increasingly they were picking up signs that made them feel like this was a serious and possible threat. They met repeatedly with each other. The old team, the Bush team and the new team, the Obama team, during this transition period in order to try to figure out what to do about it.
And it was a moment of some quiet tension there for a new president who was just about to take office.
COOPER: I understand President Obama even canceled a rehearsal of the inauguration. When was the president actually briefed? And do you know what his reaction was?
BAKER: Well, he was kept up to date in the few days leading up to the inauguration. There was one moment in particular we write about in the magazine, the night before the inauguration, his counterterrorism adviser John Brennan and a couple of foreign policy advisers jump into the limousine with him as he's heading off to one of the inaugural events to tell him the latest they had heard and what everything was being done about this.
One of the things that the new administration and the old administration agreed was they would keep Robert Gates, the Defense Secretary, away from the inauguration in a secure location, in a secret location. Just in case the worst happened and everybody in the line of succession were to be killed in a catastrophic event, he'd be able to take over the presidency.
COOPER: In your article you also wrote that Hillary Clinton was at a meeting with Bush officials, Condoleezza Rice and others. And Hillary Clinton pointedly asked what the president would do if the attack took place in the middle of the inauguration address, whether they were going to, you know, hustle him off the stage in the middle of the inauguration.
Do you know what they had decided if that scenario had unfolded?
BAKER: Well, I mean, there wasn't a whole lot of options. Obviously, the Secret Service would have to do what it would have to do to protect the incoming president.
But you know what she was pointing to was a very real danger. It wasn't just the danger that a bomb would go off and somebody would be killed, particularly the president would be killed.
It was a danger that something could happen that would send a signal of weakness at the very inception of a brand new presidency. That a brand new president at the very moment he's taking office would be shown to be vulnerable in front of the eyes of the world. That was a big, big concern for them even on top of the actual violence, itself, they were worried about.
COOPER: And was there ever any talk of moving the inauguration site or anything like that?
BAKER: No, no, they weren't going to do anything like that. They're just simply determined to make it as secure as they possibly could.
I mean, there are, you know, terrorists threats regularly that the government is investigating like this one. And like this one some of them don't turn out to be real. This turned out to be what we call a poison pen, what the intelligence people call a poison pen.
COOPER: Well, that's what really fascinated me in your article. John Brennan, who is now Obama's top counterterrorism official called it this poison pen which is basically a rumor planted by one extremist sect in an effort to kind of get the U.S. into attacking one of its rivals, is that correct?
BAKER: Right, exactly, exactly. He sensed early on this had the possibility of being that kind of thing. And what that really tells us is just how difficult it is when you're president, whether it be George Bush or Barack Obama. Trying to figure out what's real in this murky world of terrorism and extremism; what's not real.
And I think that, you know, came to light again on Christmas Day. How do we know which passengers who are in a system of 550,000 names might be somebody who might be a genuine threat as opposed to somebody who just happens to be in the system because of some random bits of information? And that's what the government is trying to wrestle with even now this week.
COOPER: That also shows you and reminds you the importance of having experienced intelligence officers I guess, like John Brennan, you know, who can identify whether something is a poison pen or whether it's some other kind of game afoot. It's a fascinating story, Peter Baker from "The New York Times" magazine. I appreciate you being with us. From "New York Times" correspondent, White House correspondent Peter Baker on the phone with us from Hawaii.
Some terrorism-related breaking news right now: this is coming in regarding Yemen. A senior State Department official tells CNN the U.S. embassy in Yemen will re-open tomorrow. The embassy was closed on Saturday after what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called ongoing threats by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The embassy now apparently going to re-open on Tuesday. We have a lot more on that note coming up.
New information about the Christmas Day airline terror plot allegedly hatched in Yemen. We're going to show you how this rich kid from Nigeria turned into a suspected terrorist.
Also ahead, war of words over the war on terror. Former Vice President Dick Cheney blasting President Obama for, quote, "Trying to pretend we're not at war." Now, the White House is firing back and we're checking the facts, "Keeping them Honest."
COOPER: A lot of new developments tonight in the Christmas airline bombing attempt. President Obama got briefed at the White House today by John Brennan, his homeland security assistant. He's going to get a full report tomorrow on what went wrong.
Meantime there is new fallout tonight. Take a look at this map; 14 nations that the TSA is now calling countries of interest. We're talking about Afghanistan, Syria, Saudi Arabia just to name a couple of them.
Starting today, there's going to be extra tougher screening for all air travelers going from those 14 countries to the United States.
Now, also on that list, Nigeria, where this man, the alleged Christmas bomber is from and also the country of Yemen where he reportedly hooked up with al Qaeda and where the plot was hatched.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is a rich kid. We know that and as you're going to see, he traveled widely, frequent flyer miles are not, of course in and of themselves suspicious. But authorities right now are retracing his steps to try to see if they served as way points on the road to terror.
I want to walk you through some of the key stops. One new surprise, this Nigerian's fascination with extreme Islam may actually go back farther than we first believe. Take a look.
We know the story for us begins in Togo, that's where he went to high school back in 2001. He was in Togo, West Africa. This is what he looked like. That's actually his high school picture from the British International School. He was said to be well liked. But after 9/11 one teacher said he did hold extremist views. A teacher believed, though, it was just a phase.
All right, so then we skip ahead to Yemen. Three years later where the Nigerian was studying Arabic at the Sanaa Institute for the Arabic language. Then, the story moves to 2005 to London when he was at the University College of London. Abdulmutallab is the president of the College Islamic Society and he invites radicals to lecture on jihad.
And that is where this man comes into the picture. While he was in London the Nigerian apparently, according to U.S. officials, say he was likely had contact with his cleric, Anwar al Awlaki. A supporter of violent jihad, he was targeted by air strikes in Yemen just last month.
Now, Awlaki, you may remember, exchanged e-mails with this man, Major Nidal Hasan, the accused Fort Hood gunman. So he has a big story to tell on his own.
Now after graduation in 2008 we know that Abdulmutallab went to Houston. He entered the U.S. on a two-year multiple-entry visa. Then just six months later he shows up in Dubai where he starts a graduate business degree -- but get this -- he drops out only -- after only a month.
And then significantly in May he tried and failed to go back to London. Student visa, though, was turned down because the school he said he was attending in London doesn't even exist. So that is incredibly suspicious. His name was then put on an immigration watch list.
Then, on August 4th he goes back to Yemen, supposedly to study Arabic again. But get this -- the man who runs the school says he didn't need more training. He was an expert speaker in Arabic already. And it's during this time in Yemen that he allegedly got al Qaeda training.
So this is what President Obama said about it over the weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It appears that he joined an affiliate of al Qaeda and that this group, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula trained him, equipped him with those explosives and directed him to attack that plane headed for America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: But we now know that didn't have to happen. In Nigeria, November 19th, Abdulmutallab's father, this man, goes to the U.S. embassy, warns that his son had fallen under the influence of extremists. The warning was passed on to Washington. The Nigerian was put on a watch list, but he was not put on the no-fly list. And amazingly his visa to the United States was not revoked.
So he was still free to travel to the United States. So then, he goes to -- on the 16th of December travels to Ghana, buys a one-way ticket to Detroit with cash, boards a flight in Amsterdam. And on Christmas day he sits down in seat 19A above the fuel tank on Northwest-Delta Flight 253 bound for Detroit.
And that is where the story ends.
"Digging Deeper" now, especially into the Yemen connection with national security analyst Peter Bergen, he's one of the few westerners who have been face to face with Osama bin Laden; also senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson.
Nic, the U.S. just closed its embassy in Yemen, it just announced today that it's going to re-open tomorrow. Is it clear how much control or power al Qaeda actually has in Yemen?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they've had a growing presence, and a growing control and influence over some parts of the country. If you go back to 2000, the attack on the USS Cole, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as it's known now formed at the beginning of last year...
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Sure.
ROBERTSON: ... a grouping of al Qaeda elements in Saudi Arabia and in Yemen. They've had attacks against Westerners over the past couple of years. Attacks against embassies there in the past couple years. They've taken advantage of a weak government that's fighting Shiite rebels in the north, that's fighting an insurgency in the south of the country.
And doing what al Qaeda has done in Afghanistan and Pakistan which is taking advantage of these sorts of semiautonomous tribal regions. So that the space they've operated, the number of people they have there, the organization they've got there, is something that's been built over the past decade to what it is today. And it is significant -- Anderson.
COOPER: So Peter, the group in Yemen is called al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Does that -- I mean, is that kind of an offshoot of al Qaeda central of Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri (ph)?
BERGEN: I think, it's very embedded with al Qaeda central. Because al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is basically made up of a -- you know, it's a Saudi group that happens to because of the enormous pressure that they're under in Saudi Arabia has rebased itself largely in Yemen. The fact that they are now operating in an al Qaeda central manner in a sense trying to bring down American airlines is not a coincidence.
I mean they're following commander's intent from Osama bin Laden to attack the West. And they don't need to get a direct order. They know that that is the -- that's the mission statement of this organization.
COOPER: And so General Petraeus goes to Yemen this weekend to meet with officials there. And Peter, you said the U.S. was sending a message by sending Petraeus, not somebody like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
BERGEN: Absolutely. I mean, this is in General Petraeus' area of operation; CentCom has control of this area. He's a four-star general. You know, the message is pretty obvious that we are planning military operations.
The president has said we're going to respond and hold people accountable on the weekend. He didn't come bringing a thank you note for your help in the war on terror. He came I think bringing something of a warning that we are going to follow through and we're either going to do it with your cooperation or without.
And I think President Saleh understands that cooperating with the United States in this instance actually makes a lot of sense. And we've already seen some of that on December 17th and December 24th with operations by the Yemenis certainly with U.S. help. So I think we can expect to see more of those operations in the coming days or weeks -- Anderson.
COOPER: And Nic, you actually spoke with some people that knew this Nigerian suspect, Abdulmutallab from the University of London. What do they have to say about him?
ROBERTSON: Well, they said that they were surprised and shocked about the allegations against him and they didn't recognize these traits about him. But the reality is the people joining the Islamic Society at universities, particularly in London, during the period he was there when he became the president of his society on his second year there, were entering a very politically and religiously and emotionally-charged environment where according to former Islamic society members extremists views were expounded upon, were debated, were talked about.
I mean, this is not -- he's not the first Islamic society president that's gone on a long and got involved in a terror plot. There have been three previous Islamic society presidents, one of them got involved in the liquid airline -- liquid explosives airlines plot back in 2006.
So there's a track record here who are being exposed to these extremist views. Although his friends around him say they don't recognize that, that's the reality.
An independent think-tank report back in 2008 said that members of these societies, while most of them were tolerant, there was a significant proportion, a significant minority that supported attacks, violent attacks in the name of Islam. That's what he was exposed to -- Anderson.
COOPER: Yes, a lot of red flags raised, even his own dad coming forward to U.S. officials, but, again, the message is not getting to the right people. I mean, him not getting his name on the right list.
Peter Bergen and Nic Robertson, I appreciate it tonight, thank you. And as always, we have more angles and greater in-depth coverage at AC360.com. Tonight, you can find a review of Yemen's history because a lot of people really don't know much about it, also its connection with al Qaeda.
But ahead on the program tonight: former Vice President Dick Cheney ratcheting up his rhetoric and his attacks on President Obama, the White House now firing back. We're checking the facts "Keeping them Honest".
Plus, doctors cannot explain this story. That's why it's being called a Christmas miracle; a newborn baby and his mom cheating death. They are doing just fine. You'll hear their remarkable story and meet them ahead tonight.
COOPER: Well the White House began the New Year with a counterattack directed at former Vice President Dick Cheney over remarks he made last week. Now, in case you missed it Mr. Cheney blasted President Obama's response to the failed Christmas day terrorist attack in a statement to the website Politico.
He said and I quote, "It is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we're not at war. He seems to think if he has a low key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people we won't be at war. But we are at war and when President Obama pretends we aren't, it makes us less safe."
Yesterday, John Brennan, President Obama's National Security Adviser and assistant on homeland security and counterterrorism slammed Cheney for, his quote, "Disappointing remarks." Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BRENNAN, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Either the vice president is willfully mischaracterizing this president's position both in terms of language he uses and the actions he's taken or he's ignorant of the facts. And in either case it doesn't speak well of what the vice president is doing.
The clear evidence is that this president has been very, very strong. In his inaugural address he said we're at war with this international network of terrorists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, we're interested in the facts on this program. Not spin. We're not taking sides. But we want to check the record. Check the facts.
Does the former vice president have his facts wrong? Joe Johns tonight is "Keeping Them Honest".
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's one thing for a leader of the party out of power to snipe at the White House for its policy decisions but it's something else entirely to misstate the facts. And that's pretty much the accusation against former vice president Cheney.
In addition to assertion President Obama is pretending we're not at war, Cheney went so far as to suggest the Obama administration is even releasing terrorists. Saying in a statement, "He seems to think if he closes Guantanamo and releases the hard-core al Qaeda trained terrorists still there we won't be at war."
"Keeping Them Honest", there is substantially more to this story. The Bush/Cheney administration also released plenty of Gitmo detainees. The Pentagon says more than 530 detainees were released from the prison between 2002 and last spring and that 27 were confirmed to have returned to terrorist activity. Forty-seven were suspected of participating in a terrorist act after their release.
As for the assertion that President Obama is dodging the notion that America is at war, he's actually said it repeatedly. He touched on it in Oslo, Norway.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am the commander in chief of the military, of the nation, in the midst of two wars.
JOHNS: Said a bit more at West Point when he announced he was sending more troops to Afghanistan.
OBAMA: I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda.
JOHNS: Even got more specific in a speech last March.
OBAMA: Multiple intelligence estimates have warned that al Qaeda is actively planning attacks on the United States homeland from its safe haven in Pakistan.
JOHNS: And this does not look like a political evolution. Even during his inaugural address a year ago this month, he set the tone.
OBAMA: Our nation is at war against the far-reaching network of violence and hatred.
COOPER: But Joe from -- I mean, is this just all about politics for those who are criticizing the president on this from a political standpoint? Do they just see an advantage in portraying the president as weak on terrorism?
JOHNS: Well, at least some of this, Anderson, I think is about semantics. President Obama is apparently not fond of the term you've heard so much, "war on terror" coined by the Bush administration as we all know; something of a catchphrase uttered pretty regularly by Cheney and President Bush, himself.
But I think the fact that is while Mr. Obama is being blamed for a lot of things, accusing him of denying a war with terrorists should not be one of them regardless of how those words are formed, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Joe Johns "Keeping Them Honest" tonight. Joe thanks.
An update from the terror file coming up shortly: five American men who worshipped together at the same Virginia mosque are now accused of plotting terrorist attacks in Pakistan. They were in court today. We'll have the latest developments on them ahead.
But first, Randi Kaye has a "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Randi.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there Anderson.
Casey Johnson, an heiress to the Johnson & Johnson fortune and daughter of New York Jets' owner Robert Wood Johnson has died. The body of the 30-year-old socialite was found this morning in Los Angeles; the cause of death undetermined.
Intelligence sources tell CNN the suicide bomber who killed seven CIA officials and a Jordanian military officer last week in Afghanistan was a Jordanian double agent who had previously provided information about high-value targets. The bomber was met off base by U.S. intelligence officials who failed to search him before driving him on to the crucial CIA post.
TSA officials investigating security lapse that shut down a Newark Liberty International Airport terminal for six hours last night. All flights were grounded while thousands of passengers were re-screened after a man bypassed security and entered the so-called sterile area through an exit. A bystander flagged authorities. The unidentified man was later seen on a security tape leaving the terminal.
A glimmer of good news for small business owners: preliminary data shows Small Business Administration's lending program processed more than 12,000 loans totaling $3.8 billion in the last three months of 2009. That's up from about 9,000 loans worth $1.9 billion a year ago.
Take a look at the world's tallest building unveiled just today in Dubai. The glass and metal tower is nearly a half mile tall, that is twice as high as the Empire State Building in New York City and more than 50 stories taller than Chicago's Willis Tower formerly known as the Sears Tower.
COOPER: Fireworks there are really cool though.
COOPER: All right Randi. Time for the "Beat 360" winners: our daily challenge to viewers; a chance to show up our staffers by coming up with a better caption for the photo we post on our blog every day. Beat 360.
Tonight's photo: Brad Pitt arriving with his daughter, Shiloh, for the Broadway performance of Mary Poppins in New York. Staff winner is Joey. His caption: "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, even though I may be cute my beard is quite atrocious."
KAYE: He is sporting a new beard.
COOPER: Yes. Our viewer winner is Patty from Palmdale, California. Her caption, Brad Pitt arrives at TLC Network with the last of his children to be interviewed for new reality series Pitt & Jolie plus 8.
COOPER: Patty, congratulations. Your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way.
You can join the live chat right now at AC360.com.
Coming up next, this story is pretty remarkable. It's being called a Christmas miracle and it's a story you don't want to miss.
A pregnant mom dies as she goes into labor; her baby was also born lifeless. Then they suddenly came both back to life. Incredible details ahead. We're going to talk with the mom, the dad and you'll meet their little miracle child.
And another White House party crasher. Can you believe it? Yes, there was apparently another one. The Secret Service just admitted a third person crashed that same party as the Salahis. We'll tell you how.
COOPER: It's being called a Christmas miracle. 33-year-old Tracy Hermanstorfer went into labor on Christmas Eve and then suddenly went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing. Then doctors tried to revive her but they were not successful. So they ordered an emergency C-Section in an attempt to save her baby.
The baby named Colton was delivered but he, too, was not breathing. And then something incredible happened. Both Tracy and Colton came back to life.
Up close tonight, here's Tom Foreman.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 5:00 a.m. on a bitterly cold Christmas Eve and Tracy Hermanstorfer is surprised to find herself going into labor. The baby is not due for two weeks. Her husband, Mike, rushes her to the hospital just a few miles from their home and by mid-morning, they are settled into a room awaiting delivery.
Tracy is given a strong painkiller called an epidural around noon. Then she falls asleep. But A half hour later mike notices a dramatic change.
MIKE HERMANSTORFER, HUSBAND: I sat there with my wife's hand in mine, ice cold. She was completely and totally blue.
FOREMAN: 12:35, her breathing and heartbeat have stopped. The medical team swarms trying for a pulse, a reaction, anything.
DR. STEPHANIE MARTIN, MEMORIAL HOSPITAL: She was dead. She had no heartbeat. No breathing. She was as gray as her sweat suit. No signs of life.
FOREMAN: For five frantic minutes they work on Tracy then Mike hears a doctor call out, "We're taking the baby now." Moments after that emergency C-Section, Tracy is rushed into an operating room.
But Mike is facing more horrible news. The baby, too, is limp and not breathing. No sign of life. Even as the medical team struggles to bring the baby around, Mike believes all is lost. Then at 12:46, Colton Hermanstorfer cries out. He's ok.
M. HERMANSTROFER: That is an amazing feeling.
FOREMAN: Thirty minutes later, more unbelievable and great news. Tracy's heart had restarted right after the birth. Within the hour she is in intensive care, but stable. The family calls it a miracle.
TRACY HERMANSTORFER, MOTHER: I got a second chance on life.
FOREMAN: By Monday, everyone was home. They celebrated Christmas late with their two other sons and gave thanks early and often for the first surprise gift of the season.
Tom Foreman, CNN.
COOPER: A lot to be thankful for.
Coming up ahead, you're going to meet Tracy and Mike and baby Colton and hear their incredible stories. Only they can tell it in our big "360 Interview".
And later, some new revealing photos of Tiger Woods: the embattled golf star like you haven't seen him before.
COOPER: Before the break we told you about the truly amazing story about a mom who died during childbirth on Christmas Eve. Tracy Hermanstorfer's baby was delivered by emergency C-Section but he wasn't breathing and then the inexplicable happened. Both Tracy and the baby -- the baby named Colton -- came back to life stunning doctors, not to mention Tracy's husband, Mike.
Tracy, Mike and baby Colton joining us now for the big "360 Interview". Tracy, how are you and Colton doing? T. HERMANSTORFER: So far so good. Haven't had any problems since we've got out of the hospital.
COOPER: And Tracy, you've had two other kids. When you were in labor with Colton, was anything different? I mean, did you notice -- feel anything different?
T. HERMANSTORFER: No. Everything seemed like it was going the same way as the other two did.
COOPER: And Mike, when did you realize that something was going wrong?
M. HERMANSTORFER: When -- after they did the epidural I noticed that her fingertips and everything were just ice cold blue. I reached out and felt her hands and she was cold.
COOPER: At that point, what's going on in the operating room? What's going on in your mind?
M. HERMANSTORFER: We were just in a regular everyday hospital room at that point in time waiting for the pregnancy to -- the delivery to come a little further along. When everything -- when everything transpired and the nurses and everybody noticed that Tracy's color was blue and they checked her pulse and everything and she had stopped breathing at that time, they -- the whole hospital went nuts.
They called a code blue over the intercom system and the whole hospital emptied. Everybody from every area of the hospital was in that hospital room.
COOPER: I know they tried to revive Tracy I think for about four minutes then decided they had to try to get Colton out. He was born lifeless. What happened when they put him in your arms, Mike?
M. HERMANSTORFER: They put him into my hands and he was totally lifeless. There was no sign of anything at that point in time. They were still working on him trying to get him going and it was about a minute after he reached my hands that he finally took his first breath.
COOPER: I can't imagine what that moment was like, hearing that sound, seeing him take his breath.
M. HERMANSTORFER: Oh, it will take your legs out from underneath of you. There is no feeling in the world that will describe it.
COOPER: And he let out a cry as well? I mean, you knew he was alive?
M. HERMANSTORFER: Yes. Yes. When he let that cry out that's when the whole world stops.
COOPER: That must have been the greatest sound you ever heard. M. HERMANSTORFER: Yes. It was. Most parents can't stand the sound of a crying baby, but I'll tell you, from experience that is one of the best sounds you could ever hear.
COOPER: And Mike, at what point did you hear Tracy had made it as well?
M. HERMANSTORFER: It was about 30 minutes after Colton came to that a nurse came up from the operating room and told me that Tracy did have a faint heartbeat but they were still breathing for her. And it wasn't until about 30 minutes after that that they had told me that she was up in the ICU unit and she was stable.
COOPER: Do you remember what you said to each other when you were finally able to talk?
T. HERMANSTORFER: I said I was sorry.
COOPER: Sorry? You didn't realize...
M. HERMANSTORFER: I understand.
T. HERMANSTORFER: I just knew -- I mean, after hearing what actually happened and I knew what he went through all I could say was, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean for it to happen."
M. HERMANSTORFER: I walked into her room as soon as they allowed me in there and I just walked up and gave her a kiss on the forehead and told her "I love you."
COOPER: At this point, Tracy, have doctors been able to figure out what happened?
T. HERMANSTORFER: Not at this moment. Not at all. They want to do some more tests. I will be going in to do some more tests and stuff, but right now it's a total mystery to them.
COOPER: And Tracy when you hear this story, what do you think?
T. HERMANSTORFER: It's scary to know you're going to go -- you went into the hospital perfectly healthy and then almost not come out of the hospital at all.
COOPER: And Mike, how are you handling all this?
M. HERMANSTORFER: This is overwhelming. I mean, day by day, I don't even know who to thank, what to think, what to do for what I've received. This is a Christmas present that you could never top.
COOPER: It's got to be life changing. I mean, not just the arrival obviously of a baby but just, you know, coming so close like that.
M. HERMANSTORFER: Yes, it's changed our whole family.
COOPER: Well, Mike and Tracy, I'm so glad that Colton is there. I'm glad he didn't cry during this interview but I'm glad - oops, there we go. He's starting to a little bit.
I'm glad you're all doing well, and we wish you the best and thank you so much for talking with us.
M. HERMANSTORFER: Thank you.
T. HERMANSTORFER: Thank you.
COOPER: As you heard, Tracy doesn't know at this point still what happened to her and to Colton. Let's talk to 360 MD Sanjay Gupta right now. He's the author of "Cheating Death: The doctors and medical miracles that are saving lives against all odds".
Sanjay, what do you make of this? Doctors said that she was dead. She had no heartbeat and her skin was literally gray. How is it possible for someone to come back to life?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDETN: Well, it's interesting, because people do tend to think of life and death as a binary process. One moment you're here, the next moment you're not.
And I think what this illustrates and -- a lot of stories like this illustrate is that it's much more of a he process, this idea of going between life and death. Several things are happening in the body. We tend to think of the heart stopping as being the critical step, and it is. But in many ways people think of that as just sort of the beginning of the problems.
And all those steps along that process are places where an intervention can occur and death as they call it at least can be reversed. I think the right answer is she was never really dead. She was always being resuscitated. Her heart was being pumped. That means blood was flowing through her body. She had a breathing tube in so she was still getting plenty of oxygen. They just needed to her body sort of recover on its own.
COOPER: Doctors at some point had to make a judgment call about whether to switch from trying to save them both to just focusing on the baby?
GUPTA: It's an incredibly difficult position and it's a very tight window. There's all sorts of studies in this sort of thing. But what they basically say is that at some point they have to decide could it be possible they might lose both mother and child.
The window usually is around five minutes. They say usually within 5 minutes, you have to get the baby out of the uterus if you're going to give this baby a chance at life. The baby is not getting adequate oxygen. The baby is not getting adequate blood flow. So the only way to improve that is to actually get the baby delivered. In this case an emergency cesarean section.
COOPER: And they so far have been unable to figure out or answer, I guess, why this happened.
GUPTA: Yes. And it's interesting. I spoke to the doctors as well. It's an unusual situation. It does happen from time to time. It's usually -- you know when you look through the medical literature, it's a case report, meaning a single case has occurred as opposed to clusters of cases.
Several things can happen. Right around the time of labor you can have what's known as an embolism; the amniotic fluid can actually cause an embolism given to the blood stream and that can be a problem.
There's a thing called a pulmonary embolism Anderson. You've heard of that. It's where a clot is in the leg and that can flick off and go to the lungs as well. It's more common in pregnant woman because of higher estrogen levels and also because they have this uterus that's expanded pushing on the veins in the legs.
In this case when I talked to the doctor and said what was it that caused this problem in Tracy? The answer came back -- that comes back more times than not which is, "We don't know." But she seems like she's back to normal, and as soon as that baby was delivered she improved.
COOPER: And the baby is doing well as well it seems.
COOPER: Sanjay, good to have you on. Thanks Sanjay.
GUPTA: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: The story of this family is not the only one we've heard. Go to AC360.com to read some other incredible stories from Sanjay's book, "Cheating Death".
Tomorrow on "360," we're going to kick off a new series called "What's Next?" Leaders in science, human health, the arts and technology tell us what's next for the coming decade. You can join us tomorrow.
Dean Cayman the inventor of the Segway (ph) joins us. We're going to talk to him about where we're zooming ahead to in the next decade from technology to health care. That's tomorrow at 10:00.
Next tonight, Americans accused of plotting terror attacks spoke out in court tonight. You're going to hear their side of the story coming up.
And move over Salahis. It turns out you're not so special after all. The Secret Service admits today there was another party crasher at the same White House event. Details ahead.
COOPER: A check on some other important stories we're following. Randi Kaye has a "360 Bulletin" -- Randi.
KAYE: Anderson, in Pakistan, five American men accused of planning terrorist attacks told a court today they had no intentions of committing any crimes. The suspects worshipped together at a mosque in Northern Virginia until they disappeared in November and turned up in Pakistan. Police say the men came to the country to wage Jihad and martyr themselves. The hearing was set for January 18th.
Washington Wizards point Guard Gilbert Arenas admits he drew guns in the team locker room on December 21st but says he was playing a joke on a teammate. In a statement Arenas says he never threaten order assaulted anyone with the guns but says he now recognizes what he did was a mistake.
A volcano is threatening wildlife in a national park that is home to some of the world's last mountain gorillas. Experts say the amount of lava flowing from the volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo has doubled since it started erupting on Saturday. It's not considered a threat to people.
It looks like the Salahis weren't the only ones to crash President Obama's first state dinner. According to the Secret Service a third person who wasn't on the guest list came with the Indian Prime Minister's delegation. The Secret Service says there's nothing to indicate that the unidentified individual had contact with the president or the first lady.
He's still in hiding, but "Vanity Fair" has new pictures of Tiger Woods in its February issue. The photos including this cover shot right there were taken by Annie Leibovitz four years ago. The magazine hits newsstands on Wednesday.
You can bet, Anderson, a lot of golfing fans saying, "That's not the Tiger Woods I know."
COOPER: Yes. It will be interesting to see the other photos.
Randi, New Year's Eve with Kathy Griffin was always fun and exciting. We had a great time. But check out what was going out over on ESPN on New Year's Eve. Talk about a dangerous stunt. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(DAREDEVIL TRAVIS PASTRANA PERFORMING A STUNT FOR ESPN)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Yikes. That is Daredevil Travis in the driver's seat setting a new world record for longest jump in a rally car. He soars 269 feet off a long beach pier onto a barge, broke the old record by 98 feet. That wasn't apparently enough. Look what he did next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A world record. Just take this in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: Oh, man. COOPER: Yes, jumped off.
KAYE: Right in the water.
COOPER: It's like when Fonzi jumped over the shark.
KAYE: Yes just like it. It's amazing though, like that jump wasn't enough, and he had to show off with a back flip into the water.
COOPER: And then you get all wet and cold. I don't know. Doesn't seem the right way to end it.
KAYE: Pretty impressive.
COOPER: Hey, that's it for 360. Thanks for watching.
"LARRY KING" starts right now.