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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Crisis in Syria Continues; Suspected Ohio Gunman Charged

Aired March 1, 2012 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 p.m. here on the East Coast.

And we begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest" with two eyewitnesses to the wholesale murder of men, women and children, two men who saw up close what the Syrian government still denies, that for the last 27 days, Bashar al-Assad's armed forces have made war on the people of Baba Amr and other neighborhoods in the city of Homs.

Tonight, the siege of Baba Amr appears to be over or just about over. The guns that poured so many shells into that and other parts of Homs have gone quiet but only because the resistance is gone. What comes next, though, could be even worse. The eyewitnesses are gone or dead, meaning government forces now have free reign, and the fear is they will use it to move in and keep killing while their leaders keep lying.

Now the regime has told lie after lie about what they're doing. We've documented that on this program over the last year. The latest lie, that one of those eyewitnesses who just escaped from Homs who you're going to hear from on the program tonight, they say he is dead. He is not. And what he's going to tell us tonight may be the last best account of the destruction of Baba Amr.

Opposition fighters in the Free Syrian Army have pulled out of Homs and the army could be poised to go in the Syrian army, after what our sources say, were the two bloodiest days of fighting they'd ever seen. But in the end light weapons are no match against heavy artillery and forces willing to target apartment buildings, houses and mosques.

You can hear the anguish in that man's voice as the shells land. Now this has been going on for nearly a month in this one city, in this one neighborhood. This is what government forces have been doing to the neighborhood where tens of thousands of people once lived. This is what the regime has been denying is even happening.

Now as we said, the opposition has moved out. The Free Syrian forces today calling their pullback a strategic move to spare the remaining civilians. Reports are only about 4,000 people remain. What you're seeing is people out in the streets gathering snow to melt because at this point they have no drinking water. They have no electricity, no heat, very little communication with the outside world. They have seen shelling throughout the day, snipers on rooftops aiming at them, and here they are reduced to risking their lives for a bucket of snow. Again, the Free Syrian Army has left, we're told. Those remaining civilians are now entirely at the mercy of Bashar al-Assad's forces. Those forces and unarmed -- and plainclothes security forces and military forces have thought nothing of killing men, women and children, and they thought nothing of kidnapping kids.

Long before the shells started falling on Homs, children were being taken, tortured and killed. The pictures as you'd imagine are revolting but for day after day and week after week and month after month they have also been the daily reality in Homs.

Once the shelling began, kids, babies like this little boy named Adnan, were dying from shrapnel wounds and lack of medical care. And just today some of the last video we've seen out of Baba Amr. It's brutalizing to see but it says everything about this war conducted by an army and children are the victims.

A boy -- we don't know his name -- trapped in the rubble of a home. He's -- buried, you see him there -- up to his waist, already an orphan, already disabled, not a terrorist, not part of an armed gang which is what the regime says it's fighting. That is just a boy in the upper part of your screen half buried by a regime that will consider his agony a failure because in the end, we're told, that boy survived.

Now as we've said, the violence, the video, the videos have slowed to a trickle today with our connections to the people of Homs being cut. Two eyewitnesses managed to get out to tell their story. Both were hunted by the regime, a resistance member named Danny whose reporting you've seen all month, and a Spanish journalist named Javier Espinosa. He was with Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik when their makeshift media center was shelled. They died. He survived. He's safe in Beirut tonight, still in contact with the people in Homs. The Syrian government put out press release saying he's dead.

Javier, the official Syrian News Agency posted a story today saying that they had recovered your body. And the Syrian Red Crescent -- they claim, was unable to get your body out of the country because of -- quote -- "armed terrorist groups." When you hear that, what do you think?

JAVIER ESPINOSA, JOURNALIST: Well, I think they're quite wrong, no? I mean, you can see by yourself. If it is not because the tragedy that they're suffering in Baba Amr, it would be a nice joke.

COOPER: It's one of the many lies the Syrian regime has told. This is just the latest. What you saw with your own eyes, can you describe what life has become like in Baba Amr for the people living there?

ESPINOSA: Well, it's an enormous tragedy, enormous -- very, very rough situation. Let's describe a normal day there. They start shelling at 6: 00 in the morning. It was very systematic. 6: 00 start the shelling. They don't stop until 6: 00 p. m. They don't shell at night. I don't know why. But from 6: 00 to 6: 00 they just stop for lunch, and that was also very precise, I mean, at 1: 00 they stop for one hour, 2: 00 they resume shelling. And it's a lot of shelling in a very small area. Let's say 12 square kilometers. So the shelling was very concentrated.

COOPER: And now that you're out do you worry about what is happening in Baba Amr right now?

ESPINOSA: Well, I think now that there is no journalists there, there's not even the media offices working anymore because they had to suspend the transmissions, the civilians are on their own and the record of this regime in the past is not very good. The latest news I have, because I was in touch with them, is that it's almost finished because they don't have any more way of resisting the advance of the army.

And that's also a problem for supplies and -- but already the humanitarian situation was completely critical. I mean, they had nothing. They didn't receive nothing at all.

COOPER: You survived the shelling in Baba Amr that killed journalist Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik. In one of your articles, you said that when the smoke clear, the picture was shocking. What happened in that hour?

ESPINOSA: Well, we were just sleeping and the rockets start falling down on our building, the building where we were staying, so the building was hit at least twice, and we woke up, we concentrate altogether in the same room. And one of the guys who is the media officer there, Abu Haneen, who should be -- for me, he's my personal hero. He told us get out because they are targeting the building.

He was outside already and he saw that the rockets were targeting directly the building. So he shout, get out from the building because they are targeting the building. But at the moment we tried to get out. There was another guy inside who told us, no, come back, because he already had heard the sound of an incoming shell. So I was able to come back in the -- in the room and I took shelter after a wall but Mary and Remi were already outside and they received the full explosion of the rocket that fall down on the gate of the building.

COOPER: Javier Espinosa, I appreciate your reporting. Thank you very much for talking with us.

ESPINOSA: Thank you very much.

COOPER: As he was escaping Homs he and other activists were trying to bring out wounded were ambush. Many of them were killed. When Javier wasn't reporting for his paper he was tweeting even as he made his escape from Syria.

The other escapee, the other eyewitness to the lies of Assad, is the Syrian expatriate we've been calling Danny. Almost daily his dispatches posted on YouTube told a story of ordinary people caught in the crosshairs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DANNY, EYEWITNESS TO CARNAGE IN HOMS, SYRIA: This is one of the tanks they have been hitting Baba Amr with. This is one of about 50 or 100 of them. We're expecting the forces to attack this place in Homs, it's called Baba Amr. Even in their houses people aren't safe anymore.

This is Homs, Baba Amr, February the 5th.

As you can see, they got all the people living down here. This is civilians, running away from the government. All we're asking for is help. We want to get rid of this regime. It's killing us.

This is where civilians live. These are civilian bodies. This isn't the army. This is one of the houses in Baba Amr. Look at these children. Is this how the Assad regime is supposed to treat our children? You can see over there another rocket landed on one of the civilian's houses.

This has been going on for all day long. Why isn't anyone helping us? Where is the humanity in the world? Where is the freaking U. N. ?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Danny made it out of Homs, out of Syria. I sat down with him just a few moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: What do you think is going to happen now in Baba Amr?

DANNY: Well, what I know is going to happen now in Baba Amr, the army will enter Baba Amr. They will have revenge on the families that live there. They will take out revenge on the families. They will torture women, they will torture the kids. They will steal every single thing they find in the houses. They will break shops. They will burn houses down. And that's -- this is going to go on for a week.

COOPER: What made you pick up a camera?

DANNY: I actually went back not to pick up a camera. I went back to join the Free Syrian Army. They did not allow me to join. They said I have no army training so they told me you've got good English, try and get the news out to the -- to the -- your world, to the outside world. We want them to know the truth about what's going on. So I just picked up the camera and started shooting me doing reports.

COOPER: I mean, are there image that stick in your mind about things you saw that you weren't able to document or just things that you saw that when you close your eyes at night those are the images you see? DANNY: Also the images, I remember, the first week because I wasn't used to seeing pieces of bodies in the street, seeing bodies that I can't save, but I can even move because a sniper would shoot me if I try to move the body. Seeing bodies with no faces, no part -- losing parts of their bodies. My friends losing arms, losing legs. That's the first week.

After that I got used to it. I got used to seeing all that. You get used to seeing all the crimes that's going on.

COOPER: You know, some of the most heartbreaking images that you captured were inside these medical clinics that people can't go to the real hospitals because the Syrian government has taken them over. They'll take the people away. And it just seems like there's hardly any medical supplies and people are dying for simple lack of basic medicines.

DANNY: It is the simple lack of basic medicine. All we have is four doctors. One of the four doctors is a dentist. So they learn how to do surgery. We haven't got good equipment even. The problem is, we've got no outside help. We want doctors to come in, we want the world to know what's going on there, and no one is helping us. No one is doing anything about this. It's been nearly a year.

COOPER: I spent a lot of time in Sarajevo during the siege there, and people would say the same thing for year after year, which is you're taking all these pictures, you're telling our story, but nobody is doing anything about it. Nobody is helping.

DANNY: Right.

COOPER: What is that like to -- you know to be crying out every day and not have anybody really hear you, or people hear you but not do anything?

DANNY: Well, it's terrible. Because look, if we pick up arms, people will attack us. We are still peaceful demonstrators still going out. Forty percent of the population are going out in demonstrations. We don't want this government to stay. No one is doing anything about it. We knew the Arab League wouldn't do anything about it. We thought the U.N. might help us. The U.N. did nothing about it.

We thought America would help, England would help, no one is helping. No one -- not even moving. We feel terrible. We just are going to die. And we can't stop. We will not stop this revolution. After the killing that this -- that Bashar Assad that -- what he did in Homs and all of Syria will not live under his grip anymore. It will not rule us.

COOPER: It's gone too far.

DANNY: It's gone too far. And there is no peaceful talking with him. We will not peacefully talking with him.

COOPER: You don't think it would be like in Hama where his father was able to kill tens of thousands of people --

DANNY: In one month.

COOPER: In one month.

DANNY: Right.

COOPER: And stay in power?

DANNY: Well --

COOPER: You think that will no longer work.

DANNY: What's different between then and now? Then there was no media. Even us in different cities we didn't know what was going on in Hama. But now there's media. What's killing this regime is the media we're getting out. If it wasn't for the media we would have more than 200,000 dead now. The media is the strongest power for us getting the story out. Since the first time we went out in demonstrations we got all our mobile phones videoing the demonstrations. So if they shoot us we can get it out to the media so the outside world knows what's going on.

COOPER: What do you want to have happened? I mean, there is talk of, you know, some groups arming opposition, some countries, whether it's Arab countries, Middle Eastern countries, United States, or Europe or NATO, the Arab League, setting up Turkey, setting up some sort of safe havens up in the north, humanitarian corridors.

DANNY: I was going to come in here really quickly. As you just said, talking, is there any action? they have been talking for more than eight months now. We did not see one good thing come out of it. No one did not -- on the ground there's nothing. Everyone is just talking and diplomats talking and no one is doing anything on the ground and we're just dying there. No one is doing anything about it. We're just going to keep there dying and everyone is talking.

We want the military to come in. We don't mind it. We want the air force to come in. The U.N. to come in. We don't care if America comes in to help us with ground troops. What didn't say no about this, what does SOS mean? Everyone is going out in the streets saying SOS. We want any army to come in and save us. We don't care if Satan comes in and takes Bashar Assad's place.

What he is doing is terrible. He's raping women, killing people under torture, and he doesn't -- he doesn't care how many he kills. We're living under rockets for more than 20 days. Under rockets. We don't know if a rocket is going to land and kill us. That's how we're living. We don't mind if we die. This is how we're living. We're only scared about losing parts of our bodies.

COOPER: There is some people I think in the U.S. and maybe elsewhere who have seen the revolutions in Egypt or Tunisia and worry about a group like Muslim Brotherhood or al Qaeda in some cases. When you hear that, what would you -- DANNY: We laugh. Actually on the ground, we still laugh because this is the Syrian government doing all these lies. We sit there and laugh. Where is the Muslim Brotherhood? Where's al Qaeda? That's us fighting, Syrians. It's nothing -- it's not Muslim revolution. They ask us, then why do you come out from mosques? Well, my answer is, how are you going to gather 10,000 people without --

COOPER: A mosque is the only place you're allowed to --

(CROSSTALK)

DANNY: How are we going to get -- we got Christians in the mosque. That's like a -- that's the only place to gather big amounts of people. That was in the beginning without the security forces finding out.

COOPER: This revolution really began with children, with children who had protested in Daraa who were arrested and tortured, and that's what angered people.

DANNY: Right.

COOPER: And we've continued to see children targeted, children tortured, their bodies returned to their families.

DANNY: Right.

COOPER: Why are they doing that? Why are they returning bodies of children to their families?

DANNY: Where are they going to put them? We've already got loads of mass graves all over Syria. They're going to return then and they make the family sign on the paper saying that the armed gangs killed my child. That's what they're doing. They killed my brother, the only way for me to get my brother back, the body, is to sign on a paper saying the armed gangs killed my brother.

COOPER: And is it a warning to families about -- is it a threat? Is it a warning about what will happen to others?

DANNY: Yes. They threat -- if my family was in Syria now they'd be killed. Anyone there who's working against the government would be killed. Anyone -- government. Anyone who asks for freedom, just the word freedom, will be shot in the head, he's a traitor.

COOPER: You're working with the group Syrian Americans for Democracy.

DANNY: Right.

COOPER: Did they help you get out?

DANNY: Yes. They helped me come to America so I could get funds to get back to Syria, to help the Syrian people. If we don't get the funds out, we need, we need to keep Homs going. We need to get the revolution going in Homs. And they're doing fund-raising dinners here to get the money and the support we need for the guys down on the ground.

COOPER: Is it -- is it too late for Homs?

DANNY: No.

COOPER: I mean, if the military moves in on the ground to Baba Amr?

DANNY: It won't stop. Look, I might go back. This is not going to stop. If they're going to have to kill every single guy living in Homs. There is not one family who hasn't lost a relative or lost a relative underneath torture. Why would they stop? There is not one family who hasn't got a relative shot or injured or killed. They will never stop.

COOPER: Until you saw this with your own eyes did you believe that this could happen in the modern world?

DANNY: No. I knew this was going to happen from the beginning of the revolution. I didn't know it would take this long for us to finish it. I thought who would do that in the third or fourth month of the revolution, but he's just doing it slowly. His father did it fast. His father killed more than 60,000 in one month.

COOPER: Do you think it's inevitable that he will fall?

DANNY: He will fall. He's not staying. I have a belief, everyone believes he's going to go. He is not staying anymore. We will keep fighting until he kills us all. We will not stop fighting this regime. He has killed everyone we have loved. He has killed every single guy I love, all my friends, all the guys -- everyone in Homs that has been injured or shot or tortured. We will not stop this revolution. This revolution will go onto the end. It's either us or him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: "It's either us or him."

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook, Google+. Add us to your circles. You can follow me on Twitter tonight @AndersonCooper.

Up next, another "Keeping Them Honest" report. Remember all those terrifying reports of Toyotas accelerating on their own? Well, tonight you'll see information the company didn't share with the government. Only CNN has the internal memo. Now Toyota says what we found isn't relevant. The experts we talked to say otherwise.

Also ahead, stories from the storm and the people of Harrisburg, Illinois. They have been through so much. They're showing such strength, strength that could be tested by more punishing weather that is headed their way. Gary Tuchman is in Harrisburg for us tonight.

Let's also check in with Isha -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, the teenager who allegedly opened fire inside an Ohio high school, killing three students, is charged with murder in juvenile court but will he eventually be charged as an adult? We will have new details.

Also for the first time we hear from the football coach who chased the gunman out of the school. Why he says he is no hero -- when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: An exclusive "Keeping Them Honest" report now.

There's a new study by a private research group that says last year alone more than 300 Toyota owners reported incidents of cars and trucks suddenly taking off on their own power. It's called sudden unintended acceleration. And last year both Toyota and the federal government said whatever the problems were, electronics were not at fault. The blame went to either bad floor mats or sticky gas pedals or even a driver error.

Drew Griffin of CNN Special Investigations Unit is here now with an internal Toyota engineering memo that the company concedes it did not provide the government investigators and a Toyota customer who says she is convinced her brand-new Lexus surged ahead on its own.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tanya Spotts thought all of those problems with suddenly accelerating Toyotas were old news which is exactly why she bought the car of her dreams. This 2011 Lexus ES-350 last June.

(on camera): Did you think it was solved?

TANYA SPOTTS, TOYOTA CUSTOMER: Oh, I thought most definitely it was solved. The federal government tested, you know, Toyota. They said it was floor mats or a sticky throttle or something like that. And I believed the government.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Seven thousand miles later on the day after Christmas she says she was pulling into a parking spot at a local mall, gently riding the brakes, she says, when, well, take a listen.

SPOTTS: The car just lurched forward, and hit the cement wall in front of us.

GRIFFIN: She jammed on the brakes so hard, she says, she straightened ligaments in her foot causing massive swelling. When she called her dealership a salesman insisted she call a Toyota company lawyer.

(on camera): And you won't drive this again?

SPOTTS: I will not drive this car again.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): At the height of the panic of the reports of unintended acceleration there was lots of speculation about the cause -- electronic interference, faulty computer programming, and bad parts. But in the end Toyota and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration determined likely causes were three things -- floor mats, stuck gas pedals and operator error, drivers accidentally pressing the gas instead of the brake. SPOTTS: My foot did not slip off of a -- of a brake and hit the accelerator. I know that. Not pulling into a parking space.

GRIFFIN: Despite a government investigation and Toyota's assurances, hundreds of other drivers have told NHTSA they share Tanya Spotts' skepticism. But if not driver error, what could be cause?

Toyota has never conceded an electronics or software problem could in anyway be responsible for sudden acceleration in its vehicles. But now CNN has obtained an internal Toyota engineering document written in Japanese with English translation which shows that in one instance during preproduction testing an electronic software problem was discovered.

To confirm the document's accuracy, CNN commissioned two re- translations. They confirmed engineers found a problem described as a malfunction that caused the vehicle to accelerate on its own, in one translation, or sudden unintended acceleration in the other.

The malfunction found in the adaptive cruise control on a preproduction model designated 250-L later sold as the Lexus 460 in Europe and Japan. Neither that car model nor the adaptive cruise control system were ever sold in the United States. Adaptive cruise control uses sensors to detect obstacles in the road ahead and adjusts speed even, stopping the car to prevent a collision.

Clarence Ditlow is the executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a watchdog group founded by Ralph Nader.

CLARENCE DITLOW, CENTER FOR AUTO SAFETY: What the memo tells me is that there was an electronic problem that caused unintended acceleration in an earlier model Lexus, the 250, and they wanted to avoid the same problem occurring in the 180, and they identified a failure mode.

GRIFFIN: If true, it would be the first time there was any evidence electronics could have caused a case of sudden acceleration in a Toyota vehicle. Toyota insists to CNN that is not what the memo said and in fact has spent weeks trying to persuade CNN not to air this report.

Last week Toyota consented to an on-camera interview with electrical engineer Kristen Tabar.

KRISTEN TABAR, TOYOTA TECHNICAL CENTER: So this has nothing to do with unintended acceleration at all.

GRIFFIN: The company insists that the issue was discovered after Toyota intentionally and artificially produced an inappropriate sensor signal as a test of the electronics fail safe system. Toyota says the adaptive cruise control was too sensitive and released the brake for less than a fraction of a second and Toyota stressed the vehicle did not physically move forward.

The company says the test resulted in an adjustment and refinement of the cruise control before it went into production and the issue has never occurred in any Toyota vehicle sold.

TABAR: The exact translation of the memo is not sudden unintended acceleration. Again, this is a test referring to the adaptive cruise control, so the literal translation is it can begin or start by itself.

GRIFFIN: Tabar, who was not part of the testing team and does not speak Japanese, says the adaptive cruise control performed perfectly. Three translations of the document refer to the vehicle moving on its own, though Tabar insists --

TABAR: The vehicle didn't move at all. That's why we're confident that this has nothing to do with sudden unintended acceleration.

GRIFFIN: Toyota did not provide CNN its own English language translation of the document.

Independent automobile safety engineer Neil Hanneman examined all three document translations and concluded that in 2006 Toyota did indeed have an electronics problem that at least in one test case caused sudden unintended acceleration.

NEIL HANNEMAN, MECHANICAL ENGINEER: This is a tangible, repeatable, fixable issue that they have identified in this vehicle, or it's related to software issues which is something that Toyota said is infallible in their systems.

GRIFFIN: More than 300 Toyota owners reported sudden acceleration problems to the government just this past year including Tanya Spotts.

SPOTTS: It was almost as if an alien took over my car and just pushed it forward.

GRIFFIN: Last month Toyota engineers examined Tanya Spotts' Lexus, downloaded the on board data stored in the car's computer and told her the results. According to Toyota, it's indisputable diagnostic readings show at exactly . 4 seconds before impact the accelerator rate and the engine RPMs jumped, a clear case, the company says, of pedal misapplication. According to Toyota she somehow hit the gas before slamming the brake.

Tanya Spotts' response, no way.

SPOTTS: I believe that this is an electrical problem. There is a glitch somewhere. It's a matter of how do you prove that. And I -- I am at a loss. I can't prove that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And Drew joins us now.

Drew, the government itself did an extensive 10-month investigation. Even brought a NASA engineering experts to determine there were no electronic issues that they could find related to sudden, unintended acceleration, basically clearing Toyota. Why didn't the government have this document or did they?

GRIFFIN: They didn't. You know Toyota sent thousands of documents to transportation officials but not this one.

The company told us it was because, and I am quoting here, the test and the document had nothing to do with unintended acceleration or a defect or safety flaw of any kind, but I must tell you, Anderson, one of the consultants hired by Congress to look into this at the time, engineering professor Michael Peck of the University of Maryland, told me this document should have absolutely been part of any investigation into sudden unintended acceleration and he was surprised NHTSA didn't have it.

COOPER: Drew, thanks very much.

You can see all the relevant documents and their translations related to this story at CNN.com.

Still ahead tonight, 17-year-old T.J. Lane was charged today in the shooting rampage that killed three high school students in Ohio. The charges were filed in juvenile court. But prosecutors still say he'll likely be tried as an adult. We'll have the latest on the case.

And, in Harrisburg, Illinois, hundreds of homes destroyed or damaged, communities turned into a disaster zone by that monster tornado. Our Gary Tuchman is on the ground with survivors and gets a firsthand look at the damage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: In Chardon, Ohio, the case against 17-year-old T.J. Lane is moving forward. Today prosecutors charged the high-school shooting suspect with six counts, including three counts of aggravated murder.

Lane was arrested Monday outside the high school as ambulances were rushing to the scene. Prosecutors say he confessed to taking a 22 caliber gun and a knife to school that morning and firing ten rounds. Five students were shot. Three of them died. Daniel Parmertor and Demetrius Hewlin were 16 years old; Russell King Jr. was 17.

Frank Paul is an assistant football coach at the school, and many consider him a hero. On Monday, he chased the gunman from the building, risking his own life, and then tried to help the gravely injured boys. Here's what's he said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANK PAUL, ASSISTANT FOOTBALL COACH, CHARDON HIGH SCHOOL: To the victim and the families I want to say that I'm sorry. My thoughts and prayers are still with you.

To the families of Danny, Demetrius, and Russell, I want you to know I was with them. I prayed with them. I wiped their tears. And I know God was with them. I don't know why this happened. I only wish I could have done more. I am not a hero. I'm just a football coach and a study hall teacher. The law enforcement, first responders, that came to our aid that day, they're the heroes.

I am here to tell you that tomorrow our schools will be open. Our teachers will be there. Our administration will be there. Our parents and community, but more importantly, our children will be there. I can't tell you how great these children are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Coach Hall may not consider himself a hero, but plenty of other people do tonight. Martin Savidge joins me.

Marty, these charges today, they're the first step in proceedings that could see this teenager charged as an adult and facing the possibility of life without parole, correct?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. These charges, by the way, were filed in juvenile court, but David Joyce, who's the prosecutor here, says that it is just about guaranteed under Ohio law that, given the age of the shooter, T.J. Lane, 17, and given the fact of the severity of the charges, that he will, in fact, be tried as an adult.

So it should be pointed out that this is a death penalty state, but of course, being a juvenile, 17, he cannot be tried with the death penalty. So the max he could get is life without parole.

COOPER: And his arraignment -- arraignment is scheduled for Tuesday.

SAVIDGE: Yes. They call it the initial appearance here in the state of Ohio. That's going to take place 3 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, and then on March 19, there's another hearing. That's the one where they're going to start the motion to begin the process to try him as an adult.

COOPER: Have they determined any kind of motive?

SAVIDGE: No. It's very interesting. Again, David Joyce, the prosecutor, said that he has not told them why he did it, but then David Joyce also said in his confession that T.J. Lane said it was not about bullying or that it was not about drugs. Really, what he said was that he chose his victims at random.

It's the prosecutor who said, see, it wasn't about bullying; it wasn't about drugs. That was some of the early speculation. But you know, there are a lot of people in this community that don't necessarily buy that.

COOPER: And I know classes resume tomorrow. You were texting with one student. What did he tell you?

SAVIDGE: Well, I talked to a lot of students, and of course, all of them will tell you that tomorrow is going to be a pretty powerful day. I actually asked my nephew to put it into words. He attends Chardon High School. And he said, "I think for most of us, we're ready to go back. It was really hard coming back today." They went back with their parents for a walk-about.

And he said that he was really glad that "they let us in to get our things and just walk the halls. It will be hard, and I doubt that anyone will be doing any learning tomorrow, but we can't live in mourning forever."

He's a senior at Chardon High School.

COOPER: Wow. We wish them the best going back to school tomorrow.

Martin, appreciate the reporting. Thanks.

Let's take a look at some of the other stories that we're following right now. Isha is back with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, potentially damaging testimony in the Web cam spying trial of a former Rutgers University student. A friend of the defendant testified that Dharun Ravi appeared uncomfortable with having a gay roommate. He also said that Ravi told him he'd spied on Tyler Clementi and planned to do it again. Clementi killed himself days after Ravi tweeted he'd watched him kiss a man in their dorm room.

The disabled Italian cruise ship has reached port after several harrowing days at sea. The Costa Allegra lost power in the Indian Ocean after a fire in its engine room. It's part of the same fleet as the Costa Concordia, which wrecked off Italy's coast in January, killing at least 21 people.

And rising gas prices are not slowing down car sales. The Detroit big three are reporting improved monthly sales in February, among the best in the past four years. Anderson, one car expert is saying this month is way beyond their expectations.

COOPER: Some good news there. Isha, thanks.

Coming up, survivors of the tornado that hit Harrisburg, Illinois, what they have gone through today with another big storm heading their way. Gary Tuchman is there for us.

Also tonight, the death of a controversial conservative blogger, Andrew Breitbart, died at the age of 43. More ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Tonight, the same areas hit by deadly tornadoes have a storm system taking aim at them. Weather watches are up tonight for parts of Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Illinois. The forecast calling for strong thunderstorms, possible tornadoes, as well. A 13th person died today from injuries he sustained in the tornado yesterday. And in Harrisburg where six people died and several hundred homes were leveled, people walked the streets that used to be their neighborhoods.

Harrisburg's mayor last night spoke about the strength of the community. That is no doubt true, but so are the raw facts of the day after any storm with the power to do this and the power to kill. So today the strong people of Harrisburg were tested. And Gary Tuchman was there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Patty and D.J. Ferrell are entering a funeral home in Harrisburg, Illinois, clutching pictures of the child they brought into the world 22 years ago, their daughter Jaylynn, who died in the violent tornado in the small Illinois town.

PATTY FERRELL, LOST DAUGHTER IN TORNADO: Jaylynn's life was a testimony. She was only 22, follower of Christ, and she taught Sunday school of 3-year-olds with me for about the past five years or so. She always worked in Bible school. You know, she served.

TUCHMAN: Jaylynn was a nurse. She lived by herself in a home that was utterly destroyed by the tornado. She was missing for many hours. But then her mom and dad heard a body matching her description was in the funeral home.

FERRELL: I just went in, and I mean ,I knew it was my baby. I mean, her hair wasn't fixed like she would have liked it. But I mean, you know, she was still a pretty girl.

TUCHMAN: It wasn't just Jaylynn who tragically died when the tornado hit. In the aftermath of the storm this line of homes has become ground zero for heartbreak and loss.

Steve McDonald is going through the devastation, looking for memories and keepsakes of a woman he loved, Mary Osman, his mother-in- law, also killed in the tornado.

(on camera) This is where Mary Osman's home used to stand. She had lived in Harrisburg her entire life. She was here by herself when the tornado struck. Her roof was flung across the street.

STEVE MCDONALD, MOTHER-IN-LAW KILLED BY TORNADO: We hurt, you know, but I'd give anything to have her back here. She was like my mom, because you know, my mother died when I was 14.

TUCHMAN: I just realized this is not a good thing.

(voice-over) Gin Price is returning to her home for the first time since the tornado. She lived a few hundred feet away from Mary Osman and Jaylynn Ferrell. Her house was heavily damaged. As the tornado blew in, she, her two children, and her mother took cover in this bathroom. GIN PRICE, SURVIVOR: My mother, son and my daughter were lodged in here, and I held onto the tub -- or to the toilet. My mother was making sure. My son, she said, "I don't even know if I suffocated him or what, but I was making sure he was staying down."

And my daughter was going nuts. So I turned and I had to slap her to calm her down and said, "Stay down." She got out of the tub and tried to get out again. I said, "Get down."

TUCHMAN: Gin now knows she and her family were very lucky.

What's notable and poignant is that Patty Ferrell says she feels lucky, too.

FERRELL: Even in the midst of the pouring rain when you can't see or hear anything, you know, He's there, and He's with us. And He carries us and He gets us through.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: It's just heartbreaking to hear her talk about her daughter. You covered a lot of tornadoes. It's hard to compare and probably inappropriate to compare one to another. But what have you seen that really sticks out to you?

TUCHMAN: I think it's very interesting, Anderson. We certainly have covered tornadoes with wider areas of destruction. Joplin, Missouri, was one such example.

But here in this relatively small area here in Illinois and this one block where the victims were hit, they were hit so hard that they never had any chance to survive whatsoever.

COOPER: And the spot you're in, it looks very much the way it did last night. I mean, is there already clean up under way?

TUCHMAN: Yes. This is a retail area. And right now, they're not touching this because the priority is the homes that were destroyed. And what's remarkable is seeing all the work going on; not just people from Harrisburg but people from all over this area, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, who have come and tried to help out. They're cleaning up right now as we speak. We hear machines in the background.

COOPER: Yes. I talked to the mayor last night and I remember him saying that people from that town had gone and volunteered in Joplin, Missouri, last year. So it's nice to see folks from all over coming to help.

Gary, appreciate the day, and I'm sure it's been difficult.

Still ahead, a showdown in the Senate over contraception. And also ahead, the sudden passing of Andrew Breitbart, dead at the age of 43.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SESAY: I'm Isha Sesay. Anderson will be back in a moment, but first, a "360 Bulletin."

Conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart died today at the age of 43. His Web site said he died unexpectedly of natural causes. Breitbart's activist blog postings drew praise from conservatives and disdain from liberals. He was a key force in the Tea Party movement.

A showdown in the Senate today over contraception. Senators killed an amendment that would have permitted employers to avoid providing healthcare coverage they disagree with on moral grounds such as contraception. Opponents of the measure said it gave employees too much latitude in their employee's healthcare decisions.

Same-sex marriage is now legal in Maryland. Governor Martin O'Malley signed legislation today making Maryland the eighth state to permit same-sex marriage. He called the bill a question of human dignity.

Sarah Palin is making a preemptive strike against the upcoming HBO movie about her, called "Game Change." The film stars Julianne Moore as Palin and it portrays the one-time vice-presidential nominee as the villain in the losing 2008 Republican campaign.

Today, Palin's political action committee released a mock video of the HBO movie, accusing "Game Change" of what it calls fact change. Not unsurprisingly, the Sarah PAC video portrays Palin in a much kinder light.

And a scare at a high school in Charlotte, North Carolina. A deer crashed through a classroom window, causing students to run into the hallway. The deer followed, but as you can see, it had trouble standing on the waxed floors. It was probably more scared than the students -- Anderson.

COOPER: Time now for "The Shot." A lot of people post videos on YouTube of themselves singing. But this duet stood out for us, a little girl and her dog making music. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: She's a mega star.

COOPER: It's hard to know if the dog is pained by the sound of the harmonica or pleased by the sound.

SESAY: It does not seem like a happy partnership.

COOPER: It is great. Goes on and on.

SESAY: Yes.

COOPER: All right. Isha, thanks very much.

Programming note: tomorrow on "STARTING POINT," Soledad talks to a family of a 60-year-old who they believe was abducted this week by the Syrian military. Also, conservative commentator Ann Coulter reflects on the life of Andrew Breitbart. That's tomorrow, "STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN," 7 to 9 a.m. Eastern.

Coming up, "The RidicuList." We're going to try to ask you not to laugh for your own safety. We'll explain, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Time now for "the RidicuList," and tonight we're adding the dangers of laughter. The Discovery Fit and Health Channel has a new show called "Curious and Unusual Deaths," and the show introduced us to the reenactment of an Englishman named Alex Mitchell who sat down one night in 1975 to watch his favorite show, called "The Goodies," expecting a bit of a laugh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What he wasn't expecting was a skit where a kilted Scotsman battles a man wielding a tube of black pudding.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: British comedy. Remind me to ask Piers Morgan what's so funny about a tube of black pudding? Is that blood sausage? Hilarious. Delightful.

Anyway, you can just tell by the ominous music during the reenactment it is not going to end well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once Mitchell starts laughing, he finds it very hard to stop. Mitchell has now been laughing for 15 consecutive minutes with no end in sight. He is unable to speak. Urine has leaked from his bladder. Mitchell died from laughter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Urine has leaked from his bladder.

Yes, so who knew you could literally die laughing? Now, I guess I shouldn't laugh about this. An expert known as the laugh doctor broke it down, explaining that after 20 minutes of continuous laughter there is tremendous strain on the heart. You're not getting enough oxygen and so on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The muscles that get most fatigued would be what we call the smooth muscles. Those would be the sphincters of the body.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: OK, really? Really? This is a very educational show.

I am actually a little concerned about this notion of dying laughing because, well, I certainly have had my moments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: (LAUGHING) All right. (LAUGHING) All right. (LAUGHING) Sorry. (LAUGHING) All right. Sorry. (LAUGHING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So the laugh doctor from "Curious and Unusual Deaths" says that laughter reduces stress, boosts the immune system, relieves pain, decreases anxiety and has a whole host of other benefits, so I guess that's the good news, as long as you can stop before it gets too dangerous.

That does it for us. Thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.