tv NBC Nightly News NBC December 20, 2014 5:30pm-6:01pm PST
no problems with any rainfall here across the bay area. >> excellent report there. "nightly news" is coming up next. on this saturday night, war of words. north korea issues a new threat after being tied to the sony cyber attack. and tonight the white house is firing back at north korea and sony. ambushed. two police officers shot and killed in broad daylight. tonight, what we're learning about the gunman. christmas nightmare, two massive storms are set to deliver a wallop. and that could wreck holiday travel plans for millions. and santa's helpers, a group of teachers on a secre to give many of their students in need a christmas like no other. this is "nbc nightly news" with lester holt, substituting tonight carl quintanilla. good evening. we begin with some breaking news. two new york police officers are dead tonight after an armed man walked up to their patrol car
and opened fire in brooklyn. the man ran into a nearby subway station and committed suicide. it's the first shooting death of an nypd officer in three years. and while the gunman's motives aren't clear, the shooting comes after weeks of protests over fatal police encounters. we begin tonight with nbc's anne thompson. >> reporter: it was a brazen attack. two new york city police officers gunned down in broad daylight, sitting in their patrol car. an execution style shooting in the brooklyn neighborhood of bedford stuyvesant. authorities say at least one officer was shot in the head. ambulance workers rushed the two policemen to a nearby hospital. it was not enough. both officers died. the suspect police say ran into the subway and shot himself. emergency workers tried unsuccessfully to revive him. at the scene, the shock and despair visible on the responding officers' faces. >> the city was poised to make some movements in the right
direction in terms of police and community relations. this couldn't come at a worse time. >> reporter: it's been a tough month for new york's police force. thousands have taken to the streets to protest police tactics since a grand jury declined to indict an officer for the choking death of eric garner this summer. while voices have been raised, for the most part the protests have been peaceful. the exception this attack of two officers on the brooklyn bridge last week. tonight, it is not known if there is a connection between the shootings and the protests. a difficult month for america's largest city, tonight got so much worse. anne thompson, nbc news, new york. >> we're getting a late update on this story. law enforcement sources tell nbc news that the suspect shot and injured his girlfriend in baltimore before ambushing the two officers. as of now it appears he acted alone. the hacking of sony pictures over the movie "the interview" is escalating tensions between north korea and the white house. north korea denied responsibility today and proposed a joint investigation
with the u.s. the saga has followed president obama on his vacation to honolulu where we find nbc's kristen welker. kristen, good evening. >> reporter: carl, good evening. while president obama begins his vacation here in hawaii, north korea continues to deny its involvement in the hacking scandal. but the white house isn't buying it. today a senior administration official released a statement saying that the country has a "long history of denying responsibility for destructive and provocative action." just a few hours after president obama arrived in honolulu, a new threat from north korea. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> reporter: north korean state tv reported that its government is now proposing a joint investigation into the hacking attack against sony pictures saying the inquiry would prove north korea had nothing to do with it and warning of grave consequences if the obama administration declines. in a statement the white house remained firm that north korea was behind the attack writing, if the north korean government
wants to help, they can admit their culpability and compensate sony for the damages this attack caused. president obama on friday. >> i announced today that -- and we can confirm that north korea engaged in this attack. >> reporter: the president also had strong words for sony pictures, which pulled the movie "the interview" from theaters in the wake of the cyber attack. the film is a satire about killing north korean leader kim jong-un. president obama called sony's move a "mistake". >> i wish they'd contacted me first. we cannot have a society in which some dictator some place can start imposing censorship here in the united states. >> reporter: sony's ceo michael lynton fired back last night saying the company had no choice since theater owners declined to show the film. >> we do not own movie theaters. we cannot determine whether or not a movie will be played in movie theaters. >> reporter: sony, which just
removed its social media promoting the movie, does have its own outlets to release it, a free streaming service and a playstation store which lets customers buy or rent movies online. lynton maintains his company is looking to find another suitable avenue for release. >> we have not caved. we have not given in. we have persevered. and we have not backed down. >> reporter: white house officials say they have discussed this issue with the chinese and asked for that government's cooperation in investigating. president obama has vowed a proportional response, which north korean experts say could mean new sanctions or even a counter cyber attack. >> my council is that whatever we do we do it fast and we make it public. because we have to stop this escalation of cyber threats. >> reporter: and while sony's ceo says that the company did reach out to the white house prior to pulling the film, white house officials say that they never spoke to sony about its distribution decisions prior to
that decision. meanwhile, president obama is expected to be briefed on a range of options for actions that he can take against north korea while he vacations here in honolulu. carl. >> nbc's kristen welker in honolulu. kristen, thanks. in cuba today the president of that communist country was talking about the new and improved relationship with the united states announced by president obama this week. cuba's hoping it will have a positive impact on the economy including its growing tourism industry. our report tonight from nbc's mark potter in havana. >> reporter: president raul castro went before the cuban parliament to explain the country's new relationship with the united states. on stage with him the so-called cuban five released from u.s. prison after serving time on spy charges. also, elian gonzalez, now an adult who made worldwide news as a child arriving by raft in florida in 1999. in his speech, castro said despite efforts to normalize relations with the u.s., no one
should expect cuba to give up its socialist principles. he also said improving the state-controlled economy is job one. as castro spoke today, cuban musicians and vendors in historic old havana were working hard to attract tourists from around the world. in the last 20 years cuba has developed a lucrative tourist economy with nearly 3 million visitors expected this year, among them about 100,000 americans. >> we have felt very welcomed. people are very friendly. and we do not feel at all controlled. >> reporter: under u.s. law the only way most americans can come here for now is by joining educational tours overseen by cuban companies. this is the iconic havana restaurant made famous by the american author earnest hemingway. the people that work here say they sure hope to see a lot more of americans here. felix cabrera who sells souvenirs, agreed. >> americans, whenever they go
to some place they leave money. >> i think it's going to improve condition of life for a lot of these people. >> reporter: critics say allowing more american tourists to visit cuba will strengthen the communist government by bringing more money to this cash poor island. and observers say some cuban leaders are also worried about having too many american tourists and too much american influence on the people who live here. carl. >> mark potter in havana. thanks for that. for more on what the changing dynamics will mean for the obama administration, let's bring in the moderator of "meet the press," chuck todd. chuck, between cuba and north korea, i suppose this will be what they call a working vacation? >> reporter: definitely a working vacation for the president, but in many ways, carl, a preview of the final two years of the obama administration. and frankly very similar to what you see in the final two years of any eight-year tenure of a presidency which is foreign policy dictates a lot. both in choosing what foreign policy issues to go after to
targets. with an improving economy, experts say shoppers will spend a little more even if they wait until the last minute. nbc's hallie jackson is live in glendale, california for us. >> reporter: good evening, carl. this shopping center is seeing bigger crowds today than it did on the saturday before christmas last year. anl cysts say about 15% of shoppers will buy their very last gift today, but most of us are only half finished. that's why today could be the busiest shopping day all year. it's the final scramble five days before christmas, which seemed to sneak up on shoppers this year. >> you procrastinate and then you work and you sleep and, oh, it's christmastime. >> the dads tend to wait to the last minute. the dads and husbands. so, yes, we are scurrying a little bit. >> reporter: they're not the only ones. on the last saturday before santa arrives. >> expectation is that today retailers will ring up close to $10 billion in sales. >> reporter: that would make today so-called super saturday
bigger than black friday, which fell flat this year partly because more people shopped on thanksgiving day itself or even earlier. while many analysts predict holiday sales will grow about 4% over last season, so far sales are only up about half that which made creating super saturday so important. >> the goal for retailers to brand a day is to give shoppers an incentive to get to the store. if you don't shop on super saturday, did you miss out on something super? i don't know. are you going to take that chance? retailers hope you're not. >> reporter: that's why they're offering what seem like big discounts to attract the folks who refuse to pay full price for anything. last year that was about 40% of holiday shoppers. this year it's 60%. >> i'm the last-minute person. that's when all the best deals come out. >> reporter: but experts warn do your homework, especially on big ticket electronics since deals may not be as good as they look. >> don't be seduced by 20% off, 40% off if at an earlier point in the season you could have gotten it for 60% off.
>> reporter: then again, this close to christmas some shoppers are taking what they can get. >> last weekend to shop, so at this point any price is a good price. >> reporter: stores like walmart and toys r us plan to open round the clock leading up to christmas eve in case you don't finish all your shopping today. and by the way, super saturday is not just an american phenomenon. the british have their own version. and they have their own name for it, carl. perhaps a more fitting one. they call it panic saturday. >> hallie jackson in california, thanks. in addition to last-minute shopping something else is poised to create headaches heading into christmas. a pair of winter storms could make a mess for holiday travel in the days ahead. for more on how that could play out, let's bring in nbc's dylan dreyer. how bad does it look? >> it looks pretty bad especially by the time we get into christmas eve for the east coast. right now it's starting as a major rain event for the pacific northwest. heavy rain is falling from seattle right into san francisco. and over the course of the
weekend we could see as much as four to six inches of rain. tomorrow, across the rockies especially above 6,000 feet that's where we're look at a snowstorm. we could see as much as one to two feet of snow to the east of salt lake city and to the west of aspen. then as we go into monday we're going to see this turn into a rain and wind storm for the east coast. heavy storms expected down along the gulf coast states, and it moves through the carolinas on tuesday. wednesday morning, heavy rain from boston, new york, washington, d.c. along with gusty winds making a mess of i-95 and causing delays at the airports. then on christmas day it starts to pull away, but we will still see heavy rain in new england in the morning. we're also looking at leftover wind gusts and could see flooding rains. finally on christmas day, carl, it will begin to pull away and we will start to see some improvements. >> that is good to know ahead of a busy week, dylan, thanks so much. when "nightly news" continues on this saturday, a disturbing new trend, guns that are untraceable and finding their way into the wrong hands.
we're back with a new trend that has federal agents deeply disturbed. it involves guns intentionally being made untraceable and then sold to gangs and drug dealers. it's a dangerous problem, one that's creating huge obstacles for law enforcement. more now from nbc's pete williams. >> reporter: police in stockton, california say it was a level of violence they'd never seen. hundreds of rounds of ammunition
fired during an hour-long chase after three suspected gang members robbed a bank, took hostages and fled. >> we are taking fire. >> reporter: during the chase in july they repeatedly fired at police cars and houses, a community under siege. >> he's shooting at the cops! >> oh, my god! >> reporter: when it was over police recovered an ak-47 style rifle hoping to trace it to see who else was involved, but it had no serial number and it never did. >> we don't know where that assailant got the weapon. and that means we don't know if there are others that may be culpable for this horrible crime that affected our entire community. >> reporter: at atf headquarters in washington, agents say it's part of a disturbing new trend, guns intentionally made to have no record. >> it really leaves us at a dead end where we otherwise would have leads to follow. as in a crime where a serialized firearm is recovered. >> reporter: the central part of a rifle is called the receiver because it receives the barrel,
the stock and the rest of the parts to make a complete weapon. while those parts can be legally bought on the internet, the receiver's covered by federal law and like any firearm must have a serial number if it's to be sold. anyone not prohibited from owning a gun can make one. is it illegal for a person to make one at home? >> provided they're not prohibited, absolutely not. >> reporter: what are you worried about? >> atf is worried about these showing up on the streets in mass quantities. >> reporter: agents say with the right machinery and parts, a finished receiver can be turned into a rifle in several hours. but atf is cracking down on those who crank them out in quantity making them untraceable guns for sale. in this atf video two suspects are selling a fully automatic rifle with no serial number to undercover agents. cases like this one have led to arrests and seizures of dozens of untraceable rifles. >> and then they're showing up on the streets of our community with deadly results. >> very deadly. very dangerous. >> reporter: this former gang member says if you've got the
cash, the streets are full of untraceable weapons for sale. >> they are very easy to come by. these guns are used basically so that they are untraceable to commit crimes as far as murders, robberies, extortion. >> reporter: the atf says just as frightening no one knows how many so-called ghost guns are out there until they appear at a crime scene. pete williams, nbc news, washington. when we come back, what happened when a drone got a little too close for comfort.
a newly released nasa video gives a dramatic view of what astronauts may see when they return from deep space missions. the video was shot as the unmanned orion spacecraft just returned from its test flight over two weeks ago. it captures the light show as orion re-enters the atmosphere at speeds of 20,000 miles per hour and splashdown in the pacific ocean. from deep space to deep sea, scientists discovered a fish lurking more than five miles beneath the surface of the pacific ocean in the marianna trench living deeper than any fish ever found before. it has ring-like fins and a tail like that of an eel. scientists hope the discovery will shed light on how creatures survive in extreme conditions. drones have raised lots of privacy concerns and now some kangaroos appear to find them intrusive. watch when one tried to film a
group of the marsupials in australia. as the camera got close, one kangaroo decided enough was enough. it hopped up and punched the drone to the ground with a solid left. the drone's owner was able to retrieve it, but the camera was beyond repair. a tree in redding, pennsylvania made headlines last month after residents complained that the puny spruce was too ugly to be their town holiday tree. some went so far as to call it pathetic. but today the town embraced its charlie brown christmas tree. they gave it a makeover that would have made the peanuts gang proud and in the process showed what christmas is all about. when we come back, a group of teachers who proved that giving really is better than receiving.
we end tonight with a story about the lengths a group of teachers went to in order to make their holiday season a little more joyful for their students. many of their students come from families that are struggling financially. as nbc's ron mott reports, the teachers initiative paid off in a big way for everyone. >> reporter: after months of doling out assignments, three fourth grade teachers at ashley park elementary school in charlotte, north carolina decided it was their turn for a little homework. >> they work so hard. they deserve the world. and we want to give it to them. >> these kids are truly our family. and so we wanted to spend christmas with our family. and that's kind of where all the toys and that idea came from.
>> reporter: the ideas, project christmas. quietly raise $100 for each of their 60 or so students, many from struggling families, and treat them to an unforgettable christmas surprise. >> even though we can't see anything, i think what's in front of me is very, very special. >> reporter: a bag full of gifts of their very own, a first for some. the money came pouring in from secret santas all over, even overseas, more than they ever imagined. >> when you take your blindfold off, there's going to be something in front of you. and it's going to make you very excited. >> reporter: and when it was time for the big reveal. >> three, two, one! [ cheers and applause ] >> reporter: everything they hoped for the kids and the adults. >> she finally got her baby doll. >> look at all the stuff in here! >> reporter: footballs and books, dolls and socks, things they wanted, things they needed. >> this is pretty!
>> oh, my gosh, irwin, you have so much stuff. oh, and a jacket? >> every shopping trip, every time at the register, everything was all worth it. >> reporter: you were surprised? >> yeah. i was so surprised that i couldn't even believe it. >> reporter: why do you think the teachers did this? >> because we worked hard and they want us to have a good christmas. >> i have never been so happy. like this is what christmas is about. like their smiles, their faces, like they just deserve this so much. they're the best kids. i love them. >> reporter: a lesson of love, caring and sharing by three teachers, an a-plus effort if you ask their students. >> merry christmas! >> reporter: ron mott, nbc news, charlotte. >> and that is "nbc nightly news" for this saturday. i'm carl quintanilla from new york reporting. i'll see you right back here tomorrow evening. good night.
you can get all of those gifts crossed off your list. good evening to you. thank you for joining us. and happening now, are you all done with that shopping? holiday shopping reaching a fevered pitch on this super saturday. this is the last saturday before christmas. malls across the bay area and the country are packed with people trying to find that perfect gift or any gift at this point. we are live in san francisco where i imagine it is very busy. some stores are going to be open all night long. >> reporter: yes. saturday is shaping up to be a very busy saturday. i just had a chance to speak to one shopper. of course, some of them trying to catch a last-minute deal on a present. a lot of these stores said they are ready for this. they haveon