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tv   NBC Nightly News  NBC  April 22, 2015 5:30pm-6:01pm PDT

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g there stiffness 2007 it's a good home. >> it sure is. >> thanks for joining us at 5:00. lester holt is next with his profile of the mike honda family. on this wednesday night, violent threat. millions bracing for a major outbreak of severe weather. tornado watches up. al roker is here. should he go free? the man who shot president reagan, john hinckley, could be allowed out for good. holocaust trial. the nazi guard called the accountant of auschwitz facing justice after 70 years. we're in the courtroom as an amican survivor of a death camp faces him down. malisa's story. our look at what it means to be a transgendered child. after a huge response. tonight a brave little girl and her grandfather whose public message touched so many people. "nightly news" begins now.
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good evening. there is a lot to tell you about tonight. we want to start with the threat of dangerous weather. strong storms and the potential for tornadoes popping up across a huge part of the country this hour. storms from texas all the way to connecticut. it started what is looking like a several-day outbreak. let's turn to al roker who joins me in the studio. al, where is the biggest risk tonight? >> right now, texas, lester. in fact we have a tornado watch in effect for northern texas and a tornado warning currently just south of amarillo. we're watching this cell develop. it was a funnel cloud on ground. warning is in effect until the top of the hour. for tonight we are looking at this risk of strong storms from lubbock, houston, austin, but we also have an enhanced risk, including dallas. 22 million people at risk for severe storms and 70-mile-per-hour wind gusts and tornadoes, two-inch hail. tomorrow the risk moves to the east. new orleans under the gun. 24 million folks at risk.
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damaging wind. our biggest concern is for friday. we are looking at this enhanced risk that's going to be up throughout parts of missouri, on into nebraska and kansas. 40 million people at risk. tornado threat. the highest of the week. we've had a big storm system making its way through the east coast. the wind gusts anywhere from 71 miles per hour in philadelphia, boston 40. lester, you can also see snow around the great lakes. just to remind you that winter's not done yet, nine states with frost and freeze warnings and watches. >> all right, al. we'll look for your report in the morning. thanks. now to a scare in the air that grabbed our attention this afternoon. started aboard a united express flight. a plane going from chicago to hartford when a passenger passed out. what happened next led to some confusion in the air and on the ground, and some harrowing moments for everyone on board as that plane made a very rapid descent and an emergency landing in buffalo. tonight tom costello
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tells us how it unfolded. >> reporter: sky west flight 305 was flying normally at 37,000 feet when the pilot suddenly decided he needed to get down fast. flight radar 24 reports the plane descended 24,000 feet in a matter of minutes. passengers say flight attendants first thought they had a sick passenger on board but then said there could be a cabin pressure problem. >> as we were told to keep breathing we suddenly go into a nose dive. that rapid descent was incredibly scary. really felt like we were just driving down, you know, uncontrollably. >> reporter: somehow air traffic controllers got the word the plane's cabin door might be leaking oxygen with several passengers unconscious. >> one last question here. do you know the number of passengers on board? >> 84 souls on board. >> reporter: once on ground, paramedics treated just a single passenger who had become ill. former captain john cox said any time there is even the potential for a cabin pressure problem, the priority is to get to 10,000 feet, and fast. >> just to ensure that
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you get the passengers down to breathable air as you do the troubleshooting. >> reporter: all the passengers were rebooked on to other flights. tonight sky west says there was never a cabin pressure problem. it appears to have been a simple case of miscommunication somehow along the way. lester? >> all right, tom costello tonight, thanks. the tears flowed openly in a boston courtroom today. survivors, family members recounting what they've lost and how they still suffer two years after the marathon bombing attack and the manhunt that followed. tonight we're seeing for ourselves the video of dzhokhar tsarnaev locked no a holding cell making that profane gesture to the cameras. nbc's pete williams was back in court today. >> reporter: the jury heard an emotional account from adrienne davis who was with her husband near the spot where this second bomb went off. she lost her left leg below the knee and has struggled to resume her passion, ballroom dancing. her husband, adam, injured in both legs has admitted himself to a va mental health facility.
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leaving the witness stand, she glared at dzhokhar tsarnaev. he did not look back. family members of sean collier, the m.i.t. police officers murdered by tsarnaev and his brother talked of his loss. his mother suffers from post traumatic stress, the jury was told. she couldn't get out of bed for a few months after he died and hasn't yet gone back to work. eric wally said when he and his wife were seriously hurt by the first bomb, they were sent to different hospitals. he broke down recalling that when each of them woke up, they thought the other was dead. a bb from the bomb remains lodged in his brain visible in this brain scan. jurors heard more about that profane gesture tsarnaev made before a 2013 court hearing. a deputy u.s. marshal says he saw tsarnaev make the gesture in a holding cell. but defense lawyers played the video it came from. he appears to look up at the reflective camera housing it treating it like a mirror adjusting his hair. later he steps off on a bench to
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get a closer look. makes a v-sign, then flashes the gesture very briefly. >> i think it is clear from the video that he figured out at some point that it was a video camera and it was at least being broadcast to the prison personnel and he was sending a message to them. >> reporter: prosecutors may rest their case in the penalty phase tomorrow. then on monday, defense lawyers begin presenting what could be two weeks of testimony delving into dzhokhar tsarnaev's background. lester? >> all right, pete, thank you. tonight the man who tried to assassinate president ronald reagan, john hinckley, could be on the verge of becoming a free man permanently. 34 years ago, nbc news was there just feet away as hinckley shot the president and three others outside a washington, d.c. hotel. now a judge is set to decide whether hinckley who turns 60 next month should be released from a mental hospital. that's not sitting well with reagan's daughter. nbc's andrea mitchell has our report. >> reporter: john hinckley seen just weeks ago on his own near his mother's home in williamsburg,
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virginia, now fighting to be released full time from the mental institution where he's been since trying to kill ronald reagan. the president was down. so was a secret service officer and a d.c. policeman. and press secretary james brady. grievously wounded. >> bang bang, then bang bang bang bang. six rounds in 1.9 seconds. >> reporter: a white house aide rick ahearn raced to help jim brady. what was going through your mind? >> i was trying to staunch the flow of blood and to basically help hold him together. >> reporter: today hinckley's brother and sister argue he is cured, ready to live with their 89-year-old mother. current and former mental health workers agree. >> john's a very sweet and considerate person. >> reporter: but prosecutors backed by the secret service argue hinckley is deceptive. has written to other killers, ted bundy and charles manson. recently lied saying he was at the movies when he was at a book store looking at books on assassinations and
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presidents. president obama has played golf on the course next to the hinckley home. now reagan's daughter patty davis has written. if john hinckley is haunted by anything i think it's that he didn't succeed in his mission to assassinate the president. last year when brady died his death was ruled a homicide caused by the injuries he suffered from hinckley's gunshots. >> john hinckley should be paying for that. >> reporter: the judge will decide if he goes free. andrea mitchell, nbc news, washington. a major development tonight in the brain injury crisis facing the nfl. a federal judge has approved a settlement with former players that could end up costing the league $1 billion. it works out to an average of $190,000 for players who develop alzheimer's disease or moderate dementia. for players diagnosed with parkinson's or als in their 30s or 40s, the awards could reach as high as $5 million. turning now to that incident that has the city of baltimore on edge.
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the death of freddie gray who suffered a serious spinal injury in police custody. an attorney for the six officers suspended in the case alleges that gray may not have been wearing a seatbelt in the police van after his arrest. of those six officers, all but one have given investigators official accounts of the incident. for the first time tonight we are hearing from the officer in yet another case that's provoked heated debate about the use of police force. this one in arizona. that shocking dashcam video of a police car plowing into an armed suspect. on a just-released audiotape, the officer at the wheel defends that violent takedown. nbc news national correspondent miguel almaguer has the story. >> reporter: accelerating to 40 miles an hour, the officer plows head-on into the armed suspect. now for the first time, we hear the veteran officer explain to investigators why he took the man down. >> he's holding what i believe to be a locked and loaded rifle based on the transmission that he
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has fired a round into the air. there's occupied businesses. there's two other officers at the end of the street. this is what i deem at this point to be a lethal force encounter. >> reporter: the suspect, mario valencia, who survived, is accused in a series of crimes from theft to arson, before police say he stole a high-powered rifle from a tucson area walmart. the officer hears the radio call for help. >> be prepared. >> i have two thoughts that go in my mind. i need to shoot him to stop the threat, or i need to run him over to stop the threat. >> reporter: the officer has been cleared of any criminal charges, but valencia's lawyer says this is a clear case of excessive force. tonight the officer defending his actions that shocked so many. miguel almaguer, nbc news, los angeles. turning overseas now to paris where authorities say an imminent terror attack has been foiled because the suspect, a 24-year-old algerian
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allegedly killed a woman, then accidentally shot himself. drawing authorities right to him. investigators say he had an arsenal, including four assault rifles, and was planning to target one or more churches. 70 years after liberation of auschwitz, and almost 70 years since the end of world war ii in europe, a nazi trial is under way in germany. a 93-year-old man once known as the accountant of auschwitz charged with 300,000 counts of accessory to murder for what he did and what he witnessed so long ago. nbc's bill neely was in the courtroom today when the accused came face to face with an american survivor. >> reporter: oscar groening was a death camp guard. for two years. 70 years on he shuffled into court to argue that he was not an accomplice to the mass murder of jews at auschwitz. his job as a 21-year-old ss officer was, he said, to count the money confiscated from jews. he saw trains arrive and doctors select those who would live and those who would die within minutes. among his prisoners were
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10-year-old twins, eva and miriam moses, both victims of medical experiments. today, eva, the survivor, now living in indiana, confronted groening about what he knew and forgave him. >> i don't want him in jail. he's 93 years old. i do like the fact that he has some conscience. and at least was willing to clean his conscience. >> reporter: the tattoos they got then eva still has on an arm once pumped full of poison by nazi doctors. at least one other survivor in court was less forgiving. >> the way he sat down and looked as if he would be still the ruler of the world. >> reporter: groening said he witnesses atrocities but didn't kill jews himself. "i'm morally guilty," he said. "i admit it in front of the victims. but whether i am guilty of a crime," he told the judges, "you must decide."
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groening is one of a handful of guards now facing justice and in his case, a possible 15 years as a prisoner himself. bill neely, nbc news, germany. still ahead here tonight, more of our reporting on a subject that has so many people talking about what it means to be a transgender child. tonight, 8-year-old malisa. her story gaining national attention thanks to a very public show of support from her grandfather. also ahead, spectacular views out of this world at a major milestone hundreds of miles above the earth.
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we're back now with more on our special series on transgender kids. last night we introduced you to 5-year-old jacob and his family. the response has been overwhelming. we've heard from so many of you on social media. tonight we meet a child a little bit older than jacob, 8-year-old malisa. her story first received national attention because of a message from her grandfather. our national correspondent kate snow continues her reporting. >> yeah, you got it. >> reporter: 8-year-old malisa phillips and her grandpa spend a lot of time together. she and her brothers call him jee-tcha. japanese for grandfather. back in february, he posted a photo of the two of them on twitter. >> as the proud grandpa of a transgender grandchild i hope she can feel safe at school without fear of being bullied. >> reporter: the tweet
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got a lot of attention because mike honda isn't just a grandfather, he is a united states congressman. >> you have a very public job, member of congress. you can choose to keep some things private. why did you decide to make this public? >> i think there is a time when you have to determine when there is a good teaching moment. i think that was one of them. >> reporter: malisa story's begins with an ultrasound. that's when michelle and travis were told they were having a boy. but as soon as she could, malisa made clear she believed something else. that she was a girl. >> she wanted that princess gowns and the princess heels and the tiaras and the wands. she had them all. >> reporter: but as years went by they realized it was much more than dress-up. it was how she saw herself. what did you feel like on the inside? >> like i was a girl. not a boy. >> herself portraits have always been with long hair and as a princess. she's always wearing a dress in her self portraits. >> you want to be supportive of your child, let them
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do what they want, explore, express themselves. but at the same time you're thinking okay, what are other people going to think? >> reporter: then one halloween a family friend gave her a wig to go with her costume. she was 6. >> she put it on and saw her reflection in the sliding glass and then in the tv. she just sat up straighter and she started to kind of posing and realizing, hmm, this matches. and that's kind of when i feel like she switched over. >> when you looked in the mirror what did you see? >> i saw the person who i really was. >> reporter: last summer on her 8th birthday, they made the transition with the support of her teachers in school, they sent an e-mail to family and friends saying -- >> it's malisa now. you need to address her as malissa and use the right pronouns and so on. >> reporter: while 8 may sound young, when they see the difference in their daughter, michelle and travis wish they'd helped malisa transition sooner. >> it hurts to think
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that she lived so long as someone that she didn't feel she was inside. >> i didn't understand at first. then they started to understand and let me be who i was. >> reporter: like all kids who transition at a young age, malisa hasn't had any medical intervention, no hormones or surgery. but as an 8-year-old decisions are coming, like whether or not to use hormone blockers to prevent puberty. have you thought through whether you'll do anything with her hormones when she's approaching puberty? >> we're definitely not going to jump the gun and rush into things. >> we have a pediatric endocrinologist. we have a therapist. her primary care physician. we have people who are assessing her looking at where she's at physically. and then helping us make decisions. >> is this scary stuff as parents? >> i think it is all scary, being a parent, period. right? >> reporter: malisa's parents say what they want now is the same thing any parent wants for their kids.
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>> all three of our children we hope for the same thing. we hope their futures are all the same, happy, healthy, confident people. it has nothing to do with gender. >> the family says they learned a lot through this experience and grandpa, congressman honda says it has influenced the way he sees issue on capitol hill. he says he believes this nation is at a tipping point when it comes to the way transgender people are treated. lester. >> this has been a fascinating series. to witness the conversation that it's created has been something else. kate, thanks very much. nice to have you here. back in a moment with one thing that sets people's most beautiful woman apart from every other in the magazine's history.
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a neighborhood on edge tonight in central new jersey. homeowners ordered to evacuate as a hillside gives way. concerns that several homes will slide into the delaware river below. officials in florence township say erosion has been an issue for some time. but heavy rains this
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week triggered the landslide. today the vatican confirmed pope francis will visit cuba before he arrives in the u.s. in september. the pope has been credited with helping to restore relations between the two countries. no word on any specifics of the trip. the last pope to visit cuba was francis' predecessor, pope benedict, in 2012. "people" magazine has named its annual world's most beautiful woman. this year it is actress sandra bullock. this is the first time bullock has been picked. but that's not her only distinction. at the age of 50, bullock is the oldest woman to ever earn the title from the magazine. when we come back, the mission that opened our eyes to the universe 25 years ago this week but it had to overcome a major failure first.
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it is the eye above our sky that changed the very concept of the universe as we know it. the hubble telescope. the size of a school bus and as heavy as a pair of elephants hitched a ride to the stars aboard the space shuttle discovery. as our harry smith tells us, that was 25 years ago this week, if you can believe it. >> reporter: we marvel when we look at pictures that come from the hubble telescope. photographs of the universe from places hundreds and thousands of light years away.
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we've seen where stars are born. we see what happens when a star dies. >> three, two, one, and lift-off of the space shuttle discovery with the hubble space telescope. our window on the universe. >> reporter: when the hubble first went into space 25 years ago, scientists quickly learned it didn't work. >> he's going to catch up with it. >> reporter: a repair mission and several subsequent visits had enabled hubble to send back images like this. a photograph of one core section of the universe. each speck of light in this picture, except one, represents an entire galaxy like our own milky way. wow. the hubble has helped us visualize the vastness of the universe. and helps us understand where we fit into this big picture. harry smith, nbc news, new york. that will do it for us on this wednesday night. i'm lester holt. for all of us at nbc news, thank you for watching. and goodnight.
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that breaking news on the peninsula. want to give you a live look at san carlos from our nbc chopper. investigators say a 66-year-old shot a 33-year-old family member numerous times. good evening, everyone. i'm jessica aguirre. >> and i'm raj mathai. we'll tell you exactly where this is happening. this is a usually very quiet neighborhood. this is a home on crestview drive near mellanby drive. this is up on the hill in san carlos not far from 280. our nbc chopper showing you now we're still not sure on the relationship between these two people but we do know they are
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related. the 33-year-old victim was rushed to a local hospital. the suspect, the 66-year-old, is in custody. the sheriff's department says the shooter opened fire because he felt threatened during an argument. we're going to bring you the very latest as we get more information into our newsroom. mandatory vaccinations for school kids may be moving forward. but not without some changes. a state senate committee voted on a controversial vaccine bill that would take away parents' right to opt out of immunizing their children. nbc bay area's jodi hernandez is live in sacramento and jodi just last week it looked like the bill was faltering, and then today it moved forward. >> jessica, last week things looked very dicey. but the bill's sponors made some last-minute tweaks and today lawmakers voted to keep the measure alive. critics say it's not over yet. >> we will have twice as many here next week for sure. no doubt. twitter's on fire. facebook's on