Return to Transcripts main page


Taliban on the Attack; Passion of the Priest

Aired May 28, 2009 - 22:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John King, in for Anderson Cooper.

Tonight: a nuclear-armed country descending into chaos, and all of us could end up paying the price.

Explosions today in Pakistan, several bombings in a pair of cities, just hours after the Taliban -- Remember them? -- warned people to flee and said they were preparing major attacks.

Three bombs went off in Peshawar, north of the Pakistani capital, and one in the city of Dera Ismail Khan in the west. That's on top of attacks yesterday in Lahore that killed more than two dozen -- Taliban fighters chased out of Pakistan's Swat Valley apparently taking vengeance on the cities.

And, remember, this is America's key ally, a country with nuclear weapons, a shaky government, al Qaeda penetration, now fighting a counterinsurgency with an army many say is not up to the task.

Oh, and it's the recipient of billions in American aid.

Joining us now from the Pakistani capital, CNN's Reza Sayah.

Reza, what's the latest, and are there signs that call into question Pakistan's stability?

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, there's all sorts of indications that things are going downhill here in Pakistan.

Rarely, over a 24-hour period, have we seen this many attacks on a variety of targets. You name it, we have seen it -- attacks on government buildings, military targets, civilian targets -- and the types of attacks. Over that 24-hour period, we have seen three suicide attacks, planted bombs.

And perhaps what's most disturbing is militants engaging security forces in extended gun battles, shades of the Mumbai attacks last year, shades of the attacks on the Sri Lankan cricket team earlier this year in the city of Lahore -- so, all sorts of indications that the security situation is deteriorating here in Pakistan -- John.

KING: And, Reza, I guess the question would be, how did this happen? It wasn't supposed to be this way.

When Pakistan launched a major offensive against the Taliban, the goal was to push them back from the capital and to diminish the threat. Obviously, it's not working. SAYAH: Yes, this was an offensive, John, in the Swat region of Northwest Pakistan that's getting a lot of applause out in Washington. This was perhaps the most aggressive offensive against the Taliban in the Swat region.

But the problem with this enemy is that this is an unconventional enemy that doesn't wear uniforms. So, it's really impossible to tell if they're being successful, if the Pakistani military is being successful.

Under pressure from the media, they did reveal some pictures of what they indicated was enemy combatants, militants lying dead on the ground. But, without them wearing uniforms, it's impossible to tell if these are civilians or if they're Taliban fighters.

What we are seeing is a mass exodus, more than 2.5 million people leaving the battle zone in what humanitarian groups are calling a severe crisis. Many of them are saying the military is just coming in and wiping out everything, destroying their buildings, and not going after militants.

And keep in mind that, if -- if history is an indication, this is not the type of insurgent -- insurgency that stays in and fights a military offensive. They melt into the mountain areas. They melt in with the civilian population, and then come back. So, it's impossible to say how successful this offensive has been in Swat -- John.

KING: And, Reza, that brings me to another question. That is, the Pakistani army, long criticized for not having the right tactics, the right training to deal with the Taliban, are they prepared, up to the task of dealing with an urban threat like this?

SAYAH: Well, many analysts say that this is a conventional army that's designed to fight its -- its neighbor.

And you go back to the enemy that they're fighting here. This is not your conventional enemy. With this enemy, the definition of death is different. This is an enemy that welcomes death. They wel -- they welcome the fact that they're being attacked. And they're -- indications are that they're countering with more aggressive attacks in urban areas, like Lahore, like Peshawar, and no solution yet that we have seen the military has come up with -- John.

KING: Reza Sayah for us tonight in the Pakistani capital, uncertain times in Islamabad -- Reza, thank you very much.


KING: "Digging Deeper" now into what this all means to the region and especially U.S. interests there, we're joined by Fareed Zakaria, host of "GPS" here on CNN.

Fareed, the multiple bombings in Pakistan today, assess the depth of this threat from the Taliban.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think this tells us something that we have suspected and gotten to realize over the last few months, which is that the Taliban has really moved out of the mountains and into the valleys, to put it very simply.

They have moved from the federally administered tribal areas, Baluchistan, places like that, where they had been, and they were dispersed, and we were chasing them. We -- the Pakistani military was chasing them. We were chasing them. They are now down in the valleys. They are in the settled areas, which means they pose a much more immediate and persistent threat to the Pakistani state. This is -- this is very important.

KING: And it's a very different challenge. We already had questions. Was the Pakistani military up to the challenge of dealing with the Taliban, say, in the Swat region?

But, now that they're going into urban areas, is the Pakistani military and the security forces simply up to this challenge?

ZAKARIA: Well, the crucial part here is that they are now trying to destabilize the Punjab, the -- the areas in Pakistan which are host to large numbers of people, population centers, economic centers, commercial centers. So, the Pakistani military, you hope, gets the message they have to do this.

Now, you asked a really important question. Can they do it? The operation in the Swat Valley would suggest that they have a lot to learn. What they have done in the Swat Valley is massive, large-scale operations, which probably dislocate the terrorists, but they dislocate lots of other people.

There are some estimates that two million people have been dislocated in the Swat Valley. You have created massive refugee camps. And, in that kind of chaos, terrorists thrive. Remember, the Taliban were created in refugee camps.

So, I have a feeling that all this activity that we have been seeing, while, in the short run, it might have produced some -- some benefits, in the long run, it isn't going to. And, as we can now see, the long run isn't that far away.

KING: And what can the Obama White House do about this, in the sense that, number one, does the Pakistani government need help? And, number two, would they take it anyway? Isn't that just a moot question?

ZAKARIA: Yes and no, right? They need help, but they won't take it.

This is the fundamental dilemma in Pakistan. In Afghanistan, we have a U.N. mandate. There are American troops on the ground. There are NATO troops on the ground. And, by and large, the government has actually been very receptive to American involvement, to Western involvement.

In Pakistan, we don't have a U.N. mandate. We don't have U.S. troops on the ground. The -- the -- the -- the country is not receptive. The government is not receptive. And the military is very prickly.

KING: And the Pakistani government has said it is absolutely confident -- the Obama administration has said it is reasonably confident -- that Pakistan's nuclear capabilities, nuclear weapons, are -- are in safe hands, and this Taliban effort does not undermine that security at all.

Are they right?

ZAKARIA: They're probably right.

You know, the truth is, who knows? Everybody is guessing here. But I think it's fair to say that the Pakistani military is still a pretty disciplined organization. It has tight control over -- over the military.

But, you know, that's -- that's the actual weapons in the silos, in the -- in the cabins, wherever they are. There's a lot of nuclear know-how, scientists, laboratories, fissile materials. And, there, I am not as sure that there are as close controls, and, there, I am not so sure that there is not somebody who has infiltrated.

It's all the more reason that we don't look at this problem as a narrow one of just locking up the bombs, but a broader one. Pakistan has to become a stable country that is not infected with this cancer of jihad and -- and -- and the Taliban.

KING: And, to that end, in closing, is the solution, then, military? Must they just root out the Taliban, whatever the price? Or is the solution some sort of a dialogue? And what would the United States be, if it had any role in such a dialogue?

ZAKARIA: You know, it's probably all of the above, John.

It's a -- it's a -- military, in the sense you have got to go after -- there are bad guys there who you have got to kill. They have -- you have got to use real smart counterinsurgency, however. You don't want to be displacing two million people while you're trying to go after two hundred bad guys.

But the key here, if there is one key, we have to press the Pakistani military to understand that their relationship with the United States and the vast amount of money that they get from the United States depends on them taking this very seriously, and waging a smart, dedicated counterinsurgency operation against all terrorists, not making a distinction between the good terrorists, the bad ones, the good militants, the bad ones.

Unless they do that, you -- we're going to -- we're going to be in a situation where it's Whac-A-Mole. You hit them in one place, but they appear in another. And that's what it's been like for the last 10 years in Pakistan.

KING: A very sober assessment.

Fareed Zakaria, thanks for your insights. ZAKARIA: Thank you, John.


KING: And you heard Fareed mention it, as many as two million refugees. You can help. Text the word Swat -- S-W-A-T -- to the number 20222, and make a $5 contribution that will help the United Nations provide tents, clothing, food and medicine.

We also have information about this on the Web site, the address,, where you will also find a video tour of the Swat Valley, the Pakistani army taking us inside what it says is a Taliban training camp and bunker.

Again, that's

And, as always, you can weigh in as well. Just log into the live chat.

Up next: Call him the kissing convert. Who knew Episcopal would be synonymous for steamy? Father Cutie's switch, so he can be with the woman he loves.

Also tonight, cops are using Tasers, and people are dying. The mother of one dead teen calls it mother. Police, though, say Tasers save lives. So, who's right? And have Tasers become a first option, instead of a last? We have got the facts you need to decide.

And new details about the Americans being held in China because of fears of the swine flu -- that and much more tonight on 360.


KING: A story that broke earlier this month in Miami took a dramatic turn today, when a wildly popular Roman Catholic priest publicly announced he is now Episcopalian.

His name is Father Alberto Cutie. And the woman standing next to him during today's news conference is his fiancee. They kept their relationship secret until just a few weeks ago, when a tabloid magazine published pictures of them on a beach kissing.

As a result, Father Cutie was removed from his parish responsibilities. But instead of condemning him, more than 100 people turned out to declare their support and their forgiveness -- apparently, though, not enough to keep him in the Catholic fold.

Here's Joe Johns with a "360 Follow."


JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Intimate pictures in a Spanish-language magazine, pretty tame by most standards, exposing the secret of Father Alberto Cutie, who admitted he had been in love with this woman for years. Once the affair was exposed, he said he had two options, reaffirm his priest's vow of celibacy and give up the relationship with the woman in the pictures, or give up the Catholic priesthood -- his decision announced today. He has moved to the Episcopal Church, where no vow of celibacy is required.

REVEREND ALBERTO CUTIE, JOINING EPISCOPAL CHURCH: I have seen the ways that many of my brothers serve God as married men, with the blessing of forming a family. In this process, I must also recognize that I began to have a spiritual and deep ideological struggle.

JOHNS: Today, Father Cutie was referring to the woman in the pictures as his fiancee.

(on camera): The Catholic Church reacted with surprise to Cutie's announcement that he was becoming an Episcopal priest, and called this a setback for relations with the Episcopal Church.

(voice-over): Yes, it is tabloid fodder, but Cutie is no ordinary priest. He's known as Father Oprah, who once had shows on Telemundo. He's also a syndicated columnist and author of a book on relationships.

But don't call him a living example of how the priestly vow of celibacy actually harms the church more than it helps. Cutie told CBS, he doesn't want to be the poster boy for that debate.


CUTIE: I believe that celibacy is good and that it's a good commitment to God. In my case, it was something I struggled with for a long time.


JOHNS: Others may be struggling, too. A recent Pew study shows that 45 percent of Catholics who left the church said they were unhappy with the rule that priests cannot marry.

And, by the way, there's already a priest shortage. In the U.S., there's one priest for every 1,300 Catholics, which isn't that bad, but, in Africa, it's one for every 5,000, in Latin America, one for every 7,000.

Experts say, the number of priests in other countries is increasing, but not fast enough to keep pace with the number of followers.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN VATICAN ANALYST: I don't think the story of Father Alberto Cutie is going to drive any change in the church's thinking about celibacy. I think, if there is going to be a change, it's going to be the much more practical reality that, in many parts of the world, the Catholic Church simply doesn't have enough celibate priests to meet demand.

JOHNS: G-rated kisses, perhaps, but a lot for the church to think about.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.



KING: It's rare that we see this kind of story play out in such a public way.

Joining me now, Bishop Leo Frade, who officiated today as Father Cutie was officially received into the Episcopal Church. He's known Father Cutie for years and is head of the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida. And, in New York, Father James Martin joins us. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1999, after working for six years in corporate finance.

Bishop Frade, to you first.

You welcomed Father Cutie into the Episcopal Church today. Celibacy is not required in your church. But my question is, do you worry at all, are you concerned, that this is a man who, while in the Catholic Church, broke the rules? He let many of his parishioners down by having a secret girlfriend. Does breaking the rules concern you?

BISHOP LEO FRADE, EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF SOUTHEAST FLORIDA: The -- the reality is that, you know, people change.

There was a -- an -- an Anglican priest that became -- that became Roman. And, actually, he made it to cardinal. And he used to say that to live is to change, but to be perfect is to have changed often.

I think that people change in the process. And, unfortunately -- you know, and, unfortunately, this is a very public thing because he was a public figure. And the reality is that we wish -- you know, I have received many Roman Catholic priests, in the same way that Rome received many of our Anglican priests.

So, I mean, this is -- the road between Canterbury and -- and -- the road between Canterbury and Rome and between Rome and Canterbury gets a lot of traffic. So, maybe what we need to do is, somewhere in there, put a traffic light, and -- and try to sort them a little better.


KING: It's an...


KING: It...

FRADE: But, you know, it's not -- it's not a perfect system, but you don't expect anything else from a public person. And -- and -- and Father Cutie is a public person.

KING: A very interesting way to put it.

Father Martin, come in on that point. Father Cutie's story has triggered, of course, a centuries-old debate in the Catholic Church: Is the vow of celibacy keeping good men like him from the priesthood?

REVEREND JAMES MARTIN, AUTHOR, "MY LIFE WITH THE SAINTS": Well, I mean, I think there are clearly many married men and many men who want to be married who want to be priests. I don't think the rule is going to change, though, because of one person.

I think it's probably going to change, if it does change, because of fewer priests in parishes. So, I don't think Father Cutie's case is really going to affect anything, at least not in the Vatican.

KING: Gentlemen, I need you both to stand by.

We're going to take a quick break -- more of our conversation in just a second.


KING: And still ahead: a group of Maryland students who traveled all the way to China for a school trip only to end up quarantined, forced to stay inside their hotel rooms. We will tell you why.

Plus, "The War Next Door" escalates -- mayors of 10 Mexican cities arrested on corruption charges, after a brazen and daring prison breakout caught on camera.

And a 10-month-old lottery ticket worth $10 million -- did the owner cash it in, in time? There's a lesson in this story -- coming up.



KING: Father Alberto Cutie became a celebrity in the Catholic Church, but, today, he left his fold behind and officially joined the Episcopal Church. He did so to be with the woman he loves.

Before the break, we were talking with Father Cutie's new bishop, Bishop Leo Frade in Miami, also Father James Martin, a Catholic priest in New York.

Let's pick up where we left off.

Bishop Frade, what does it mean to your church? He was a celebrity priest. He's been called Father Oprah because of his popularity, all the attention he received because of this. Does that help you? Does it bring in new folks?

FRADE: I don't -- you know, I think that the -- that people join churches and change churches and denominations really for other reasons...


FRADE: ... than if he's Oprah or not.

I think that the reality is that he is a very charismatic fellow, and a hardworking priest. And I -- I believe that he is a man of God. And, in our case, in our -- in our -- in our denomination, the -- which is a part of the Catholic -- one holy, Catholic and apostolic church, the reality is that we -- for us, celibacy is volunteer.

And we are receiving a -- a person that -- that really, we hope, that will help us understand more the Hispanic ministry and how to minister to Hispanics.

KING: Father Martin, any concern, a younger priest like this leaving, going over to the Episcopal Church, someone who, as the bishop was just saying, is a good communicator, has appeal to young people? What is the concern there?

MARTIN: Well, I think it's more a concern for the people in Miami.

You know, he was a real star among the Latino Catholics. So, I think the people who are going to find it most difficult are his followers, members of his parish, especially, and, then, also, secondarily, people who follow him on television. So, those are the people, I think, who will feel it the most.

KING: And, Bishop Frade, how does this play out now in your church? Number one, he's not a priest immediately, right? He has to wait...

FRADE: That's correct. He's a layperson.

KING: ... some time in your church?

FRADE: That's correct. There is a process that he has to follow. And he has to be approved by Commission on Ministry, the Standing Committee, and -- and -- and then he has to pass canonical exams.


FRADE: We don't want him to be a Catholic -- a Roman Catholic Church in the Episcopal -- and act like a Roman Catholic in the Episcopal Church.

We're -- we're a much more inclusive church. And, for example, issues of birth control, we allow birth control. Issues of women in the ministry, we allow women to the highest role, to priests and bishops. Our presiding bishop is a woman. So, you know, we want to make sure that he recognizes -- he doesn't have to agree with all the tenants of our church, but he needs to be open-minded, to be able to accept all, and respect women in the ministry, and respect the idea that -- that there is more than one way to see things in life. KING: And, during this transition, Bishop, has he told you he expects to marry his girlfriend? He says he's in love.

FRADE: I....

KING: Do you expect to be officiating at that wedding?

FRADE: Let me put it this way. If he doesn't, he's a real dumb guy, because she's very pretty. So, I think that -- but I think that he will -- at some time -- I don't know when, but I think he has expressed -- he presented her as -- as "my fiancee."

I -- but I -- you know, I -- if he wants to continue being celibate, it's fine with us. If he wants to get married, it's fine with us. That is his prerogative.

KING: And, Father Martin, come in on that point. I want you to explain more about the debate, the discussion, in the Catholic Church here in the United States and around the world about that very thought of optional celibacy.

MARTIN: Well, you know, there already are married Catholic priests. As the bishop was saying, Episcopal priests who are married and who are received into the Catholic Church are -- are not asked to divorce.

So, there -- there are Catholic priests. And I think people are getting more comfortable with them, priests who are married. But, once again, I think it's a question of the number of priests that are available to parishes. And I think people are seeing that there are -- are more and more parishes without priests, which raises the question again.

But this is a -- a 1,000-year-old tradition, and I think it's going to take a long time for the Catholic Church to discuss it and to change, if it does happen.

KING: Father Martin, Bishop Frade, we thank you both for your time today, gentlemen.

FRADE: Thank you. God bless you.

MARTIN: You're welcome. Thank you.


KING: And go to for unique perspective on this fascinating story. A former priest and a former nun now married to each other speak out about why they believe celibacy should not be a requirement for priesthood. Read their post at

Just ahead: A teen dies after being Tasered by police. His mother says there's no excuse for what happened. But what do the cops say? We will bring you both sides of this tragic story in just a moment.

First, though, Erica Hill joins us for a 360 bulletin.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And John, we begin with President Obama adding to the pressure over Mideast peace talks today -- the president hosting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House, where he said the Palestinians must strengthen security in the West Bank.

And Mr. Obama also took the opportunity to reiterate his message to the new Israeli prime minister, urging Benjamin Netanyahu to freeze the Jewish settlements.

On the brink of bankruptcy -- even as a new deal to give creditors a bigger stake in the company moves forward, it seems all but certain now General Motors will fire for -- file for Chapter 11 protection by Monday and become the property of the U.S. government.

Confined in China -- 21 students and three teachers from a Maryland private school now being quarantined by government officials, after a passenger on their plane to China last week was suspected of having swine flu. The group is being kept in their hotel rooms until tomorrow, which is also the last day of their trip, all spent in the hotel.

And, if you have any old lottery tickets, you may want to dig them out and double-check those numbers. One woman in Australia did and found a ten-month-old ticket worth -- get this -- $10 million. And it's lucky she found it when she did, because, if she had waited two months longer, that jackpot would have expired, and the winning ticket would have meant nothing, John. She had a one-in-45-million chance of winning.

KING: If you have those tickets, check them. Check them. I have a couple of $2 downstairs in my desk. I'm not worried that about that. Ten million, I would...


HILL: I know.

KING: I wouldn't like to find out I missed that one.

HILL: I know. You would think you would have checked that before.


KING: You check yours every night, I guess.


HILL: Hey, look, a girl's got to do what a girl's got to do.


HILL: I got college to pay for.

KING: There you go.


KING: Up next: Can Mexico's drug war be won? Dozens of officials accused of corruption have been arrested, but is it enough to save lives? We have got the latest on "the War Next Door."

And a learning-disabled boy Tasered by police and killed by the shock -- did police go too far?

Plus, Mary Tyler Moore gets personal. She talks about an issue she's dealt with for over 40 years.


KING: Tonight, a troubling new development in "The War Next Door."

Mexico has vowed to crush the murderous drug cartels. And President Obama has pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to help. But is it enough to stop the violence and keep it from spreading across the border?

As Michael Ware found out, the suspects aren't just foot soldiers and smugglers; they're also public servants and mayors.

Here's Michael's report and analysis.


MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Watch closely to what you're about to see. It's incredible -- grainy security camera video at a prison in Mexico.

Heavily-armed and obviously well-trained federal police appear to be sweeping in to transfer maximum-security prisoners. But this is not what it looks like, for these men are not police. Fake police officers arrived in this convoy, their uniforms legitimate, their cars marked as cop cars. And, within two minutes and 55 seconds, they had scooped up 53 inmates, stolen 23 guns, and driven back out the gate and away.

Of the 53 prisoners freed, at least 12 were cartel members. And why many of the 53 were in that cell block that night is a mystery, as they were meant to have been held elsewhere. Later, 44 prison guards were questioned.

When we patrolled neighborhoods in Juarez with Mexican police, we knew corruption is a deeply entrenched way of life here. The corruption is so bad, honest officials don't know who to trust. After all, just this week, federal police arrested ten men in Mexican cities and 17 other officials. They charged them with corruption.

And it's the latest escalation in the 2 1/2-year war, a war that has seen President Felipe Calderon put 45,000 troops into battle against the cartels, and it's a war that has so far taken the lives of 7,499 people.

Most of the dead were cartel foot soldiers, but many were innocent Mexican civilians caught in the cross fire. And a few Americans have been killed, as well.

When we visited the war's front lines in Juarez, right next to the Texas city of El Paso, we found the story of this mother of two. Marie Selim Molinar (ph), a U.S. resident. Murdered, gunned down within yards of the El Paso border crossing as cartel assassins targeted her boss, who was sitting beside her.

Now another American is dead, this time a 15-year-old high school student. She died while sitting with her family at a baptism party in Juarez. She was cut down by a stray round from a firefight that swept past the house.

All this bloodshed, and for what? A war U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officers agree cannot be won. At least not the way it's being fought now. A war fueled by America's appetite for drugs and one commonly waged by cartel members with U.S. weapons in their hands smuggled south across the border.


KING: Michael Ware with us now.

Michael, horrific and depressing reporting there. So you were there. If nobody trusts anybody, what do the officials you talked to say needs to happen to win?

WARE: Well, unfortunately, John, there's no ready-made answer. I mean, even if you probe these officials, and they're in such a predicament. I mean, I was in the police headquarters of Juarez, the police headquarters itself, the command center, and there were officers there who couldn't talk to me in front of the other officers or factions who couldn't talk in front of others.

And indeed, when I was talking to someone from the Mexican president's office in Juarez, I was told an anecdote where a crackdown on a stolen car ring resulted in a firefight between Mexican police and Mexican army over who would get to steal the car. So that's the nature of the problem we're talking about, just on the corruption front. Let alone the organization, sophistication of the cartels, the support within the people, the improbability of the terrain. It all adds up to the fact that there's no quick fix here.

The two most readily obvious extremes are the first, you cut down the demand. Legalize these drugs in America, and that immediately evaporates the need for organized crime to provide them.

Either that or we see 45,000 Mexican army troops in the field. You can militarize the American border, send the 101st Army Division into Juarez, but no one wants to see that either. There's no quick fix, mate.

KING: No quick fix and some depressing reporting there, Michael. Michael Ware, thanks so much.

WARE: Thanks.

KING: Next, when non-lethal force turns deadly. A young suspect dies after being tasered. Could the tragedy have been prevented? The fallout over this failed encounter with police ahead.

Also tonight, we're keeping a close eye on the weather. The first tropical depression of the season in the Atlantic. Will it threaten the United States?

And brain power. Meet the new spelling bee champ. We've got the winner and the word that made it all happen.


KING: In Michigan tonight, new questions about the police use of tasers. That after a 16-year-old boy with learning disabilities died after being shocked by a stun gun. Authorities say they had no choice, but his family calls it murder. What happened?

Abbie Boudreau has an up-close look.


RENEA MITCHELL, MOTHER: So this is the house where it happened.

ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What happened inside this house has changed Renee Mitchell's life forever.

(on camera) So what would you call it?

MITCHELL: Murder. It's murder. Why did they use a taser on a kid that hadn't did anything? Why?

BOUDREAU (voice-over): This is where Robert Mitchell spent the final moments of his short life. The 16-year-old died after police in this Detroit suburb shot him once with a taser gun, giving him a 50,000-volt shock of electricity.

Mitchell was chased here as he ran from several policemen after a traffic stop. Renee Mitchell is Robert's mother.

MITCHELL: Why would you want to shoot anybody's kid? Those things should not be used on people's kids.

BOUDREAU: Last month Robert Mitchell was riding in a car here on Detroit's Eight-Mile Road. The car Mitchell was riding in was driven by his cousin, Chris Davis, but the car they were in an expired license plate.

Police came up behind them, turned on their flashing lights, and began to pull them over. Before the car even stopped, Mitchell jumped out and ran.

CHRIS DAVIS, COUSIN: He jumped out and started running. I told him not to, but he was real scared. He was petrified. He hopped out of the car and started running.

BOUDREAU: Mitchell wasn't wanted for any crime and had no criminal record, but he did have a learning disability. And his mother believes he ran because he was afraid of police.

Officers ran after Mitchell for nearly two blocks, ending up on this street, where Mitchell ran into this abandoned house. Police say there, inside, Mitchell resisted arrest.

COMM. WILLIAM DWYER, WARREN POLICE: Once he entered into the vacant home, then they had to finally make the decision, because of resisting arrest, they used their taser.

BOUDREAU (on camera): The police officers would not have used the taser if it wasn't resisting arrest?

DWYER: Absolutely. I mean, if he would have -- you know, they ordered him several times, you know, that he was, you know, not to resist. And he continued to resist.

BOUDREAU: But this kid was, you know, a smaller kid, 5'2", 110, 115 pounds. Why couldn't they just overpower him? He was a small teenage boy. No weapon on him.

DWYER: Well, you know, the public sometimes doesn't understand that, you know, officers make split-second decisions. They don't have time to group up and say, "well, here's the strategy we're going to use in this particular case.:

BOUDREAU (on camera): Police consider tasers a non-lethal use of force. Though Amnesty International recently reported that more than 350 people have been killed by tasers since 2001 in the U.S.

Robert Mitchell was buried a week after his death. The Mitchell family is now suing the Warren Police force and also the city of Warren.

An investigation by the police internal affairs department determined the use of the taser was justified, and the officers involved are now back at work.

MITCHELL: My son is in heaven. I'm mad now. Ain't no time to be crying or thinking about it (ph). I'm mad. Something needs to be done, and somebody needs to take care of it. They shouldn't be working right now. They done killed somebody's kid.


BOUDREAU: The mayor of Warren is now looking into Mitchell's death and questioning how and when tasers should be used.

And the police commissioner emphasized time and time again with us that this death is a tragedy. And he tells us he feels badly about the whole situation.

Now, Robert Mitchell is actually the third U.S. teen in the past several months to die after being tasered by police. We're still waiting on the medical examiner's report to find out Mitchell's official cause of death -- John.

KING: Sad case. Abbie Boudreau for us. Abbie, thank you.

BOUDREAU: Thank you.

KING: Tasers, are they safe, or are they putting lives at risk? Lou Palumbo is a veteran security expert. We'll see what he thinks about tasers next.

Also, tonight, on edge and on high alert. U.S. forces and South Korea as North Korea's military threat heats up.

And the latest unbelievable call to 911. This time a guy says he's missing a juice box. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My little boy is crying for his orange juice and stuff. And we came back with the receipt and everything, and, "Hey, can we have our order? We paid for it."

And she was, like, "Oh, no, I can't do anything about it."



KING: More and more police departments are turning to tasers to subdue individuals. This is a demonstration. The devices deliver up to 50,000 volts of electricity in just seconds. Law enforcement agencies say they're an effective use of non-lethal force and help bring dangerous confrontations to a peaceful end.

But not all the time. As we just told you, the family of a 16- year-old Michigan boy says he was tasered to death by police. And Amnesty International reports more than 350 people have died as a result of being tasered since 2001.

So how safe are they? Let's ask my next guest. Lou Palumbo is a retired agent and is director of the Elite Intelligence and Protection Agency, a private security firm.

Lou, let's start with the specifics of this case. This is a 5'2", 110-pound 16-year-old kid. Was tasering him the right move?

LOU PALUMBO, DIRECTOR, ELITE INTELLIGENCE AND PROTECTION AGENCY: Not in my opinion it wasn't. You know, quite frankly, earlier in the show, the commissioner of this department alluded to split -- split- second decisions we have to make as law enforcement agents, and he's 100 percent right.

But I can tell you as I stand at 6'1" and about 215 pounds, if I encountered someone 5'2" who was 110 pounds, whether I had a partner or not, I don't believe tasering that individual would have been a course of action that I would have taken.

KING: So take me -- put yourself in that situation, because the police department, as you know, says this was the right use of force here because they say the young man ran. So the officers then assume that he is resisting arrest. And he runs into an abandoned home. I'm assuming there wasn't great line of sight in there.

Under what circumstances would you use it in this case?

PALUMBO: Well, clearly, when they -- when they developed these tools, these tasers, they were designed first and foremost to reduce the number of incidents where you would use deadly physical force, No. 1.

No. 2, given the ability to neutralize an individual who might be what we would call formidable. I don't think 5'2", 110 pounds is what I would consider to be a formidable foe.

So I think there's an issue with policy here, John, quite frankly. And I think there's a gigantic issue with training, you know.

And as far as using a taser, it is a judgment call. If you see you're dealing with someone who's intoxicated, who's belligerent, who's demonstrated violence, who's aggressive and angry towards you as a law enforcement agent, clearly in a scenario where you're attempting to take them into custody, you could probably justify the use of a taser.

The first thing is this. And I think we should clear the air on something. In all these indigent neighborhoods with children, primarily that are minorities, many of them run from cops. They ran from me when I was a police officer, for one simple reason: they're afraid of us.

Unfortunately, too many of the encounters we have with them are of such a negative tone that they become uncomfortable with us. Maybe we need to put a little more effort into establishing a little bit of more rapport in these communities and a little bit more of an understanding that we're OK and we're accessible and approachable.

I cannot say to you enough times that it's disturbing to think that someone would taser my son at 5'2" and 110 pounds. And I think what everybody has to do here is empathize with exactly what happened that night.

And I listened to the explanation of chasing him into an abandoned house. And I know what the law says. If you want to get into it, we could get him on criminal trespass or possibly even burglary.

But the reality of the situation is, there was nothing legally compelling him to stand there and talk to the police.

One final note, though, John: I think as they do this autopsy, we also have to look at toxicology reports. Because there could be something attached to this incident that a toxicology report would reveal. A controlled substance, a high level of intoxication, some things that might alter your reasoning process and not want you to get caught by the police.

KING: Lou Palumbo, thanks for joining us tonight and thank you for your insights.

PALUMBO: You're welcome. Thank you, John.

KING: Up next, Mary Tyler Moore speaks candidly about a 40-year battle with diabetes and why she was initially afraid to speak out.

And can you spell "champion"? Well, that's the easy one. The best spellers in the country battled it out tonight. We'll show you the winning moment, just ahead.


KING: A new spelling champion is crowned. We'll show you the winning moment coming up. First, though, Erica Hill joins us with a "360 Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: John, U.S. and South Korean forces on higher readiness tonight after North Korea threatened military action following its nuclear tests and firing of several short-range missiles earlier this week.

The 2009 Atlantic hurricane season doesn't officially begin until Monday, but a tropical depression has already formed off the East Coast of the United States. The good news in all this: it isn't expected to threaten land.

Actress Mary Tyler Moore is sharing some new insight on living with type-1 diabetes. That's the kind that needs insulin injection. She was first diagnosed when the Mary Tyler Moore show launched in 1970 but didn't go public until 14 years later. Today in Washington, she explained why.


MARY TYLER MOORE, ACTRESS: I was afraid that as an actress, when people watched me, whether it was doing my series or I was doing a part in a movie, that people would say, "You know, she's a diabetic."

And the other person would say, "What's that?"

"Well, I don't know, but she has it."

"Well, it doesn't look like it's too serious. I mean, look at her. There she is. She's up there prancing around."

Or "Oh, my God, that poor woman."


HILL: And this Oregon man who you're about to see in just a moment arrested and charged with misusing -- there he is -- emergency services. This may sound like a familiar refrain. He called 911 to complain he didn't get the juice box he ordered at the McDonald's drive-thru. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's the problem there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This lady -- we ordered some food, and we went home. Our order wasn't in there. And my little brother is crying for his orange juice and stuff. And we came back with the receipt and everything. "Hey, can we have our order? We paid for it."

And she was, like, "Oh, no, I can't do anything about it."


HILL: Yes, I'm going to go out on a limb here, John, but I don't think 911 can do much about that either. They have bigger fish to fry.

KING: Yes, bigger fish to fry. If this were the spelling bee, I would say "inexplicable" might be the longer word. I think there's a shorter word. I don't want to say it on TV.

HILL: Crazy?

KING: That's not bad. That's pretty good.

HILL: Clearly they haven't been watching AC 360, or they would have learned from the other lady who called 911...

KING: Yes.

HILL: ... about her McDonald's order. This isn't really the best course of action.

KING: This is an important series, giving you the guidelines to the 911 out there.

All right. Let's move on now. Our "Beat 360" winners. It's our daily challenge to viewers -- you're all familiar. A chance to show up our staff by coming up with a better caption for the picture we post on the blog every day.

Tonight's picture: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg poses with Elmo -- who else? -- at the seventh annual gala benefiting sesame workshop. Our staff winner is Gabe. His caption, I just bought sesame street. Instead of Elmo, your new name is 'Vote for Bloomberg'."


HILL: There's a lot of "vote for Bloomberg" stuff floating around the city right now, let me tell you. KING: I've seen the ads.

HILL: They're all in my mailbox.

KING: Our winner is Jerico. Jerico is from San Francisco. His caption: "No, Elmo, you can't get swine flu from Miss Piggy."

(SOUND EFFECT: "Ooooh!")

HILL: Public service announcement.

KING: That's pretty good, given all the swine flu news in New York. That's good. Jerico, your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way.

HILL: And for the record, John, Mayor Bloomberg -- I just want to point out -- not the only one with close ties to Elmo. Our very own Anderson Cooper, you may recall, teamed up with Elmo at last year's benefit for Sesame Workshop. There we have the dynamic duo. They co-hosted the event.

Elmo's a lucky guy.

KING: Mayor Bloomberg is lucky Anderson's not getting in that mayor's race.

HILL: Still ahead here, 11 super spellers faced off on national television tonight. Only one survived the final round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. What word clinched the title? We'll show you.

Plus, the latest on Pakistan's chilling slide toward chaos. The United States has given its nuclear-armed ally billions to beat back the Taliban. So why are they stronger than ever?


KING: Erica, this is an important night. A new spelling champion just crowned moments ago here in Washington.

Eleven young contenders faced off tonight in the final round of the Scripps national spelling bee. In the end, the only one was left on the stage, this word:




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lukewarm or redundant on religion or politics. The only thing standing between her and this prestigious title, this word.



KING: Laodicean. Kavya aced it, won more than $40,000 in cash and prizes.

HILL: I just love it had. I think this is -- this is one of my favorite stories every year, I have to say. The emotion that these kids have, they spend so much time training for it. I adore them all.

KING: I cannot believe how well they respond to the pressure at that age. It is stunning.

HILL: It is. And by the way, I don't think there are a lot of people who knew what that word meant. I had never heard it before, so I learned something new.

KING: I'd have been on my way home. Thanks, Erica.

Coming up at the top of the hour, deadly serious stuff. New explosions and a dire warning inside America's shaky nuclear-armed ally. What chaos in Pakistan means to all of us. None of it good. Ahead on "360."