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tv   NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt  NBC  December 5, 2016 5:30pm-6:01pm PST

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so small businesses shut down because of this tragedy. we'll keep our crews onsite and check back with you later tonight. >> see you at 6:00. tonight, nbc news exclusive. at the scene of a growing tragedy in oakland. the first in-depth interview with the man who ran the warehouse, where dozens died in an inferno. hung jury. breaking news in the trial of a police officer seen on video fatally shooting an unarmed motorist in the back. dangerous hoax. inside the fake internet news story that led a gunman to open fire at a pizza shop. how a wild conspiracy theory spread, with help even from president-elect trump's national security adviser. a better night's sleep. news for millions plagued by tossing and turning. what people are doing at home to catch more zs without trips to the doctor. and a hero's welcome for a pearl harbor survivor, now 104, returning to honor the fallen.
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how he's inspiring america. s "nightly news" begins right now. this is "nbc nightly news" with lester holt. good evening to the viewers in the west. i'm kate snow in for lester. there are so many reasons why the tragedy that happened here in oakland friday night should not have happened. from the illegal living spaces to a makeshift stairway, to the dangling electrical cords and stacks of flammable materials. by all accounts, it was a disaster waiting to happen. as we come on the air tonight, the number of bodies recovered has reached 36. the victims were there for a party in a warehouse known as the ghost ship. an art collective where the very things that made it avant-garde may have also made it a fiery death trap. now tonight, the man who ran the place is talking to nbc news. miguel almaguer is here to start our coverage.
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good evening. >> good evening. just a short time ago the sheriff's department told us by thar cautiously optimistic no more bodies would be recovered. it's possible murder charges could be filed in this case. investigators will be back here searching the debris and also possibly pree serving evidence. this is where the heartbreak began. buried underneath ash and rubble, bodies of at least 36 victims. solemnly removed from the warehouse where they died. >> i can't explain who i am anymore. >> reporter: derek almena leased the warehouse. in his first sitdown interview, he tells us, his family was not there during the fire. he's spoken to investigators and has not been charged. >> do i take blame or responsibility for this? like -- >> reporter: his home, this warehouse, is where nearly a hundred gathered for a dance party when flames exploded.
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a building not permitted for residential use. with wife micah and their young children, almena says their art collective, a group of tenants, covered the $5,000 a month rent. almena says he made repairs to the electrical system without permits, after he says, the landlord refused. >> we've done everything that we possibly could afford to do. >> reporter: known as the ghost ship, the building was cluttered with a maze of wooden furniture and art. cited multiple times for blight. those who live here, roughly 25 people, tell us the warehouse had two access points. a main door and a make shift emergency exit. there were two sets of stairs. one made of wooden palettes. the fire began on the first floor. upstairs where the crowd listened to a deejay is where most of the victims were killed when the fire spread. >> it happened so fast. >> reporter: the blaze broke out
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next to carmen brito's room. the victims were young, creative and enjoying life. brito remembers the faces of those who died. she survived the fire, but can't escape the grief. >> and i wish i could give a reason i'm alive when so many other people aren't, and i can't. i don't know. >> reporter: miguel almaguer, nbc news, oakland. >> reporter: this is stephanie gosk in oakland. as firefighters continue the grim search for remains, anger builds. how did this happen? who was responsible? documents obtained by nbc news, show nine complaints against the property since 1999, including two as recently as last month. citing a ton of garbage piling up and an illegal interior building structure. officials say they were looking into it. >> we had an inspector attempt to enter the building, and at that time, was not able to secure access to the building. >> reporter: the warehouse was not supposed to have residents,
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but it had dozens, including nicki kelber. >> i found a home there. >> reporter: nicki said there were rules. no candles, no smoking, and concerns about fire. >> if your ideal situation is living in a warehouse versus living on the street, you're going to live in that warehouse. >> reporter: john darmanin is a retired san francisco fire captain. he says fire inspectors can get overwhelmed in a city like oakland, where real estate prices have led to unofficial living space popping up all over. >> in a place like oakland, that's a big job. >> it's a huge job. the single most important thing isn't the inspection itself. it's the follow-up. >> reporter: since the fire, the owner has not been seen in public. records show she owns at least eight properties in the county. in a statement, the family says, we are also trying to figure out what's going on like everybody else. we're sorry to hear about the tragedy. our condolences go out to family and friends. the couple who ran the property say they're being unfairly blamed. >> a lot of people have turned their backs on us. most expressly, the landlord.
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>> reporter: there are people all over this city, living in warehouses like this one. their concern tonight is that moving forward, future steps to protect a tragedy could mean many of them will find themselves in the street. kate? let's turn now to the breaking news from charleston, where a judge has declared a mistrial in the case of officer michael slager. seen on video, fatally shooting an unarmed motorist, walter scott, in the back. it was a shooting that gripped the nation and tonight the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. nbc's gabe gutierrez has details. >> the court therefore must declare a mistrial in this case. >> reporter: after more than 23 hours of jury deliberations, tonight a mistrial in the murder case against former north charleston police officer, michael slager. >> there's no unanimous verdict, then we're back to square one, and that's where we are in this case.
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>> reporter: by this afternoon, their final note that the panel of 11 white people and one black man couldn't reach a unanimous decision. >> being that we did not get a guilty verdict, it's a little disappointing. but the good thing is, that we have two more tries. >> reporter: the dramatic cell phone video shocked the nation, walter scott, shot in the back multiple times in april of 2015. during the month-long trial, slager told the court, he was in total fear for his life and shot scott in self-defense. slager said scott ran from a traffic stop and grabbed his stun gun during a struggle. >> i don't care how it looks. it's not over. >> reporter: scott's family, who had already won a $6.5 million civil settlement from the city, says, this is only round one. >> we're firm, and we believe that at the end of the day officer slager is going to pay for what he did to walter scott. >> reporter: friday, a sign this was coming in an extremely rare move, a dissenting juror sent this letter to the judge. >> i still cannot, without a reasonable doubt, convict the defendant.
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>> reporter: in a follow-up note, the foreperson clearly seems frustrated. >> that juror needs to leave, he's having issues. >> a mistrial gives both sides a kind of advantage for next time. they've had a practice run. they've gotten a sense of what arguments might work, and they both come to the battlefield with that experience. >> reporter: slager's defense team declined to comment tonight, but local prosecutors say they'll retry this case and slager also faces a federal civil rights trial next year. kate? >> gabe gutierrez in charleston, thank you. now to the fall-out from a bizarre stand-off, that's left a washington, d.c. neighborhood in fear. it started with a dangerous internet hoax that caused a gunman to open fire at a d.c. pizza shop. swept up in a conspiracy theory pushed on social media, even by a member of president-elect trump's inner circle. we get the latest from nbc's tom costello. >> reporter: under arrest in washington, 28-year-old edgar wells, accused of firing an assault weapon inside the comet
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ping-pong pizza restaurant. welch told police he came to investigate pizza-gate, an internet rumor alleging a clinton campaign child sex ring. >> let me state unequivocally, these stories are completely entirely false. >> reporter: the pizza-gate conspiracy began with a clinton wikileaks and e-mail stolen from campaign john podesta about a fund-raiser involving the restaurant. users of the anonymous online message board, known for rogue political discussion, suggested without any proof whatever, that the word "pizza" was code for child sex trafficking at the restaurant. the conspiracy theory quickly spread to reddit and youtube, feeding fake online news stories, then jumping to facebook and twitter. eventually reddit banned the thread. both d.c. police and federal agents say the story is false. the website also claims there's a secret tunnel running from the pizza restaurants, up the store to the politics and prose book store, to traffic in children. but the book store says, there is no tunnel. for weeks the book store and
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restaurant have received dozens of threats each day. >> we don't see this as a left-right thing, as a democratic, republican thing, this is really, truth versus fiction. >> reporter: discredited rumors about sex trafficking, even shared by president-elect trump's selection for national security adviser michael flynn who last month retweeted a link, writing, must read. flynn's son, his chief of staff, had been pushing pizza-gate on twitter. neither man responded to our request for comment. late today, anxious store owners met with d.c. police commanders as a fake news story has turned into something very real. tom costello, nbc news, washington. now to president-elect donald trump who has announced he's nominating one-time rival ben carson for secretary of housing and urban development. meanwhile, nbc news has learned that the president-elect's controversial phone call with taiwan last week was long in the works. we get more from nbc's kristen welker.
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>> reporter: new signs tonight president-elect donald trump knew exactly what he was doing when he held a call with the leader of taiwan last friday, breaking decades of u.s.-china protocol. while top officials publicly insist the call was merely congratulatory. >> this was a moment of courtesy. >> reporter: a high level source familiar with the issue tells nbc news, mr. trump talked with top advisers about the possibility of establishing contact with taiwan for months. those talks intensified after election day. john huntsman, a former ambassador to china, now being eyed as a possible secretary of state, says, it's a smart move. >> you have a businessman who has become president of the united states, and who understands real leverage and how to find real leverage in that relationship. >> reporter: for his part, mr. trump has been unapologetic, tweeting, did china ask us if it was okay to devalue their currency? and as a candidate, he frequently took aim. >> we can't continue to allow china to rape our country.
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>> reporter: today china firing back. the state-run newspaper writing, creating troubles for the china-u.s. relationship is creating troubles for the u.s. itself. china policy experts say, this is a shake-up. >> trump is trying to change china policy, and it is a major reset. he is challenging the assumptions that are decades old. >> reporter: but others warn the move is risky. >> it doesn't make sense to me, that donald trump should want to start his presidency with a serious crisis with china. i don't see where that gets us. >> reporter: a sign the call with taiwan was likely no blunder. >> for donald trump, this is classic art of the deal. put china on warning, you better watch out, things are going to be different now. >> reporter: tonight trump officials are disputing reports that trump's team was exploring potential business dealings in taiwan. meanwhile, an interesting visitor here at trump tower today, former vice president al gore meeting with the president-elect to discuss climate change. kate? >> kristen welker, thank you. extreme weather is pushing
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across the country tonight, a violent threat in the south has millions on alert, and up north, folks are bracing for a winter blast. nbc's kevin tibbles has more. >> reporter: a wintery whitewash, from the pacific to the plains, midwest and northeast. >> i love snow. it's just, i don't like shoveling it. >> reporter: dangerous conditions. two deaths reported after a crash on a snowy michigan road. and temperatures are poised to plummet. up to 30 degrees below average. as an arctic blast knocks thermometers down to the single digits. along the gulf coast, high winds, downed trees, and flooding. >> we really were scared. >> reporter: near san antonio, texas, the saturated ground, contributing to a massive sink hole that took the life of a local sheriff's deputy. more severe weather on the way tonight. >> damaging winds and isolated tornadoes the biggest threat, the storms will spread east overnight, but we're still looking at severe storms tomorrow morning. >> reporter: winter's official
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start is still two weeks off, but for many, it's already here. kevin tibbles, nbc news, chicago. still ahead, fighting insomnia, the new way people are using their computers to find a better night's sleep without ever seeing the inside of a doctor's office. also, how would you like to skip the grocery line? a big announcement from amazon that could change the way we shop. just want powerful relief.
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we're back now with new developments for the treatment of insomnia. up to half of adults experience the symptoms, and treatment can
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be both expensive and time-consuming. but a promising solution for many can now be found online in the comfort of your own home. nbc's kristen dahlgren has those details. >> reporter: for as long as she can remember, claire wolf smith had trouble falling asleep. >> i tried warm baths. i tried warm milk. i tried antihistamines. >> reporter: the answer, it turns out, was right at her fingertips. an online program called shuti, one of many now available. users keep a daily sleep diary. like a doctor might, the software uses that information to make custom suggestions. claire started by pushing back her bedtime to 1:00 a.m. to reflect how much she was actually sleeping. then she changed her behavior. >> i never, never take my phone in bed. i never take a tablet in bed. i never take a book in bed. >> and if she doesn't fall asleep in 15 minutes?
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>> never lie awake in bed trying to fall asleep. >> reporter: a study published in the journal of the american medical association found it works. researchers reported 70% of the customized program users saw improvement, versus 27% who used generic sleep tips. >> we have good interventions, we just need to make them available and accessible. >> reporter: lead researcher dr. lee ritter brand helped develop shuti and has a financial stake in the program, which costs $135 for 16 weeks. money well spent for claire wolf smith, now sleeping two more hours per night. a big difference. just ask her husband. >> so i'm less irritable? >> yeah. >> oh, great. >> among other things, yes. [ laughter ] >> reporter: a new tool that for some is putting insomnia to bed. kristen dahlgren, nbc news, new york. we're back in a moment with why protesters are still battling the elements, even after claiming victory over a controversial project.
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a major announcement today from amazon that could eliminate a big headache for grocery shoppers -- the check-out line. the company unveiled amazon go. a brick and mortar store where customers scan a phone app, select items they want and simply walk out. it's all automatically charged to your amazon account. for now, there's only one store for amazon employees in seattle, but reports say the company plans to open some 2,000 stores eventually. in north dakota, protests continue over a controversial pipeline even after the federal government denied a permit to build on a native american reservation yesterday. demonstrators fear when president-elect trump gets into office, he might reverse the decision. nbc's tammy leitner has the latest. >> reporter: a new show of unity, just hours after celebrating that the dakota access pipeline was denied a permit to build under the missouri river and along the
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standing rock sioux reservation, the harsh reality set in. >> we have a new administration coming in, and i think anything done now could be undone in a month. >> reporter: thousands marched in blizzard conditions today as the company building the pipeline responded defiantly. saying it is fully committed to ensuring this vital project is brought to completion without any additional rerouting. president-elect trump's team today reiterated their support for the project. at one point trump himself owned shares in the company building the pipeline. his spokesperson tells nbc news, he has sold those shares. despite the politics at play, people are still arriving to support the cause. >> we're not going anywhere. no one's going anywhere. >> reporter: tammy leitner, nbc news, cannon ball, north dakota. up next, a extraordinary journey with pearl harbor's oldest living survivor.
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inspiring. this week, as our country prepares to mark the 75th anniversary of the attack on pearl harbor, we're following the oldest known survivor of that day that will live in infamy as he makes a very emotional return. nbc's joe fryer has more on our latest "inspiring america" report. >> reporter: the word survivor seems especially fitting -- >> push, push, push. >> reporter: -- when describing ray chavez. an unlikely gym rat. >> you can run marathons in no time. >> reporter: who is defying his age. may i ask, how old are you now? >> 104. >> reporter: he first became a survivor that december morning in 1941. >> i can't forget it. i never will. >> reporter: chavez was in the navy, stationed at pearl harbor when the bombing started. >> i got very emotional that day. there were so many innocent people that were lost. >> reporter: chavez often returns to hawaii to honor those
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who died. >> tap and then over. >> reporter: but at 104, could he possibly be in any shape to make the long trip again? >> getting hawaiian shirts all ready? >> oh, yeah. >> reporter: the answer is yes. three years ago he started working out with trainer shaun thompson. putting on 20 pounds of much needed muscle. >> nice. when they say i'm too old to do this or that, i say, look at ray. that excuse doesn't fly anymore. >> welcome aboard. >> reporter: with help from his gym and alaska airlines, chavez got a first class ticket for the six-hour trip. he arrived over the weekend, a welcome worthy of a hero. when you're 109, maybe you'll go to the 80th anniversary. >> oh, yes. if i can walk, i'll go. >> welcome back, sir. >> reporter: the oldest known pearl harbor survivor, as devoted as ever to the country he served. joe fryer, nbc news.
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>> and that is going to do for us on this monday night. i'm kate snow in for lester. for all of us at nbc news, thank you for watching and have a great night. temporary stop-downf new saftey concerns, the search for more bodies re-starts tonight. we're live on the scene...w/ more answers -- and insghts into tragedy in oakland. ==raj/2-shot== the news at 6 starts now. good evening and thanks for beinbg w/ us...i'm raj mathai. ==janelle/2-shot== and i'm janelle wang in for jessica aguirre. ==janelle/vo== let's begin with our first close-up look at the devastation inside that warehouse. you can see fire crews working in what remains of the building. the piles of debris as tall as the firefighters. tonight sheriff's officials say they don't believe they'll find any additional bodies in the warehouse. right now the death toll stands at 36. ==raj/live== our nbc chopper is live -- over
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the scene. crews have gone through about 75% of the warehiouse. they could be completed -- by tomorrow. this is also a criminal investiogation -- so multiple of this warehouse. they could be completed as early as tomorrow morning. this was also a criminal investigation as you might already know. multiple, local and federal agencies are working side by side. the d.a.'s office and the atf among them. we have multiple crews that continue to work servlt averal of this tragedy. elyce. >> reporter: we're learning more about the criminal investigation that is underway here. the district attorney says whoever is responsible for this deadly warehouse fire could face charges ranging from murder to manslaughter. recovery crews have been working throughout the hour and now we're also getting a first look at these photos showing exactly what crews are dealing with de


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