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CNN NEWSROOM

Discussing US Drone Strike Policy; Fired Cop Suspected in Three Deaths; News Conference on California Murder Spree

Aired February 7, 2013 - 14:30   ET

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


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BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: A manhunt under way in Southern California for an ex-cop suspected in the shooting deaths of several people including a police officer. We are told this man here in the photograph is 33-year-old Christopher Jordan Dorner.

He wants revenge and has a vendetta against all police in Southern California. L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck talked about this highly trained marksman.

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CHIEF CHARLIE BECK, LOS ANGELES POLICE: Well, of course, he knows what he's doing. We trained him and he was a member of the armed forces. It is extremely worrisome and scary especially to the police officers involved. The Riverside officers were cowardly ambush and had no opportunity to fight back and no pre-warning. You know, imagine going about your work day having to worry about that.

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BALDWIN: So for obvious reasons, people in Southern California on edge right now. Police chief said Dorner should be considered armed and extremely dangerous. If you see him, if you see his car, do not approach him. Pick up the phone and call police. Much more from the scene on the story at the top of the hour.

We want to get now to some of the hottest topics you will certainly be talking about at the dinner table beginning with this, the use of drones to target and kill suspected terrorists overseas expected to get a good hard look this afternoon on Capitol Hill because the man who oversees the White House kill list is appearing right now in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

John Brennan is President Obama's pick to head America's spy agency, the CIA and some Democrats plan to grill Brennan about the drone program. One of the bigger issues here, how the administration justifies marking Americans for death by drone strike.

Let me bring in my panel for you, economist and author, Ben Stein, back today, Lauren Ashburn, editor-in-chief of the "Daily Download" and also today, syndicated columnist and radio host, David Sirota. You can read his work as salon.com and he is also a contributor to the "Huffington Post" and a regular on the show, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Sunny Hostin.

So welcome to all of you. David Sirota, let me begin with you here. Broaden this discussion now, what do you think? Under what circumstances should the U.S. be allowed to kill Americans.

DAVID SIROTA, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST, RADIO HOST: Well, I think under the law, the first situation should be that the U.S. actually brings a single charge against the people that it is targeting for assassination. I think that's was missed here is that we are having a drone war that's going on.

But the U.S. citizens that have been targeted for assassination have not been charged with crimes. So the question in a democratic republic like the United States where there is supposed to be a check on power, the question should be why is the government not even charging the people that it is assassinating with a single crime.

It shouldn't be too hard if the evidence is so overwhelming that you know you want to execute somebody. It shouldn't be too much to ask for the government to at least bring a charge of a crime. The fact that the government hasn't should raise real questions about who is on the president's kill list and who is being targeted.

BALDWIN: Another part of the story is collateral damage, right, because I think of the American Anwar Al-Awlaki who we target and killed in Yemen. We also ended up killing his collateral damage, his son, the 16-year-old who apparently meant no harm, but was taken out. At what point can we go too far, the U.S. go too far, Lauren?

LAUREN ASHBURN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, DAILY DOWNLOAD: Well, I think that Americans, first of all, have a right to know who is murdering in their name. A lot of that has to do with this great scoop that Michael Esikoff had out of NBC News -- the meme that was actually found.

I think that as far as the involvement in the information that came out, we have a right to know that. It's not operational movements by troops. I think that people would like to know who is being kill and targeted.

BALDWIN: But how much, Sunny Hostin, should we know? I mean, I know a lot of people are pushing and I know that white paper that now the White House has agreed to let some folks in Congress take a look at, some people are pushing to let the public lift the veil of secrecy. Sunny Hostin, what do you think? How much should we know is too much too much?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I think there is a tension here, Brooke, between national security and the need to know and the transparency in the law. Yes, I do think under the constitution people should be concerned that Americans are being targeted, killed, and assassinated without due process as has been mentioned already without being charged and being seen in a court of law.

But then you also have this war on terror. How much do we really need to know ultimately that could compromise national security? I think that's really where the tension is right now.

BALDWIN: Ben Stein, what do you think about all of this?

BEN STEIN, AUTHOR AND ECONOMIST: Well, the whole world has changed. I mean, I agree with what all the people before me said. It's a very serious situation for the president. It is hard for the president to give himself a license to kill. We are at war as they say in the James Bond movies, who cannot be found easily and we went bring them before a court of law and we know they mean harm to Americans.

It does involve putting a lot of trust in the president and national security adviser and the CIA to do it right, but I don't see an alternative and we cannot let the people who intend to do harm to Americans and innocent people all over the world wander around freely without stopping them in some way. As to indict them in a court of law, it would be wonderful to do it, but it's not the way the world works.

BALDWIN: We have to go to Riverside, California. A lot of you have been following the story. This is the chief of police in Riverside, California on this manhunt underway for this former cop, Christopher Jordan Dorner.

CHIEF SERGIO DIAZ, RIVERSIDE, CALIFORNIA POLICE: We have a rundown of what occurred early this morning in the city of Riverside. At about 1:35 in the morning, two of our officers in a marked black and white unit in full uniform were attacked in a cowardly ambush.

The officers were stopped at a red light at the corner of Magnolia and Arlington, Magnolia facing south at Arlington, they're stop for the red light. They were not involved in enforcement action. They were stopped anyway.

A vehicle pulled up next to them and the driver of that vehicle fired multiple rounds from the rifle. Both officers were wounded. One officer, a 34-year-old man, 11-year veteran with the police department is deceased. The other officer, 27-year-old officer is seriously wounded, but we expect a full recovery.

At this point, I would like to make one point very clear. We know that some of our local media have been given a name of a deceased officer. Without confirming that name, we are asking the media to not publish that for the time being. I will explain why.

The person with whom we are dealing, the criminal with whom we are dealing made it clear that he considers police officers and their families fair game for his assaults. We don't know if that would extend to the families of our officers who were assaulted today.

From an abundance of caution, we are asking that if you think you have the name of the wounded or deceased, we are pleading to a sense of ethics and public safety. Do not release that. We are asking you not to release that. Once the suspect is in custody, it will be a moot point.

The suspect assaulted our officer and then drove away. The families of the wounded and deceased have been notified now. The -- I wanted to reassure the citizens of Riverside, we don't believe there was anything about the city or specifically the police officers that this individual was targeting.

We know from reading his so-called manifesto that even before he started on the crime spree, he essentially communicated his sense with the people with whom he had a grievance with fair game and so with their families.

So were any other police officers on or off duty. There is no connection to our city. The LAPD has identified a number of residences and persons at risk from throughout the region. None of those are in the city of Riverside.

What we know is that approximately 20 minutes preceding the attack on our officers, there was an incident in the city of Corona where we believe the same individual attacked LAPD officers. At this time, I would introduce the Chief Mike Able from the Corona Police Department to speak on that.

CHIEF MICHAEL ABLE, CORONA POLICE DEPARTMENT: Thank you, sir. Chief Michael Abel. As Chief Diaz mentioned, 20 minutes before their incident that will take us shortly after 1:00 a.m. this morning, the Corona Police Department received 911 calls regarding an officer shot at the Magnolia Avenue off-ramp at northbound I-15.

Corona dispatch broadcasted the information to surrounding agencies. Several surrounding agencies responded to the scene, medical aid was immediately rendered to the injured LAPD officer.

About 20 minutes later at 1199, which is an officer down broadcast was put out by the Riverside Police Department, which all responding officers responded to. The crime scene in Corona is still currently being processed in cooperation by both the Los Angeles Police Department and the Corona Police Department.

On behalf of all law enforcement, our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Riverside and Los Angeles Police Departments along with their families for the senseless tragedies that occurred today. I will turn it over to Chief Perez to speak about the incident and the LAPD officers.

CHIEF JOSE PEREZ JR., LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT: Good morning. Deputy Jose Perez Jr., Operations Central Bureau. As previously recorded, we had two officers as part of a protection bureau and flagged down by a citizen who reported seeing the suspect in his vehicle.

The officers gave chase to the vehicle until they caught up to the vehicle by Magnolia of the 15 exit. The officers were selling for a shoulder weapon. Officers were able to return fire. One officer sustained a graze wound to the head. The vehicle sustained numerous hits.

The officers were able to call in through their cell phone and a couple of citizens. We are assisting Corona Police Department with the administrative investigation as happen at all officer-involved shootings.

Corona is an agency on the criminal investigation here. Our officer is being treated and we don't expect him to sustain any serious injury.

DIAZ: I wanted to mention several individuals representing the city and county government in Riverside starting with Mayor Rusty Bailey. All of the members of the city council were present as well as the city manager and assistant city manager and we had as we always do in these cases tremendous support from the city government and we are grateful for that. Again, from the District Attorney's Office, Frank was here.

CRAIG DAVID, ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY, RIVERSIDE: I'm Craig David, the assistant district attorney in charge of criminal operations here in Riverside. On behalf of District Attorney Paul Zellerback and the entire Riverside County District Attorney's Office, we express condolences to the family and colleagues of the slain officer as well as the other victims and their loved ones in the tragic incident.

The district attorney's office has mobilized the bureau of investigations and they are on tactical alert. The investigators are actively assisting and participating in the search for the suspect.

Additionally, we have also designated two of our homicide unit prosecutor who have responded to crime scenes both in Corona as well as Riverside as described by Chief Diaz who will be involved in this matter and are involved as we speak following every detail so that we can be prepared to ensure that justice is done when the suspect is apprehended.

DIAZ: We are ready to take questions in a minute. I wanted to emphasize that as always on these cases, these tragedies elicit an unbelievable amount of cooperation among law enforcement agencies for the people of this city and this county, the state and of our nation.

In this building we have an intelligence center that includes not only the agencies that you see represented here, but also the California Highway Patrol and the FBI and U.S. Marshall's Office.

The intelligence sharing function includes regular ongoing briefings that bring in the investigators from the Corona Police Department from the Irvine Police Department in Los Angeles and Riverside.

Again, we've had and I wanted to acknowledge this huge amount of outpouring of sympathy from the public and public agencies as well as unlimited offers of assistance. So for that we are deeply grateful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why was he in the city?

DIAZ: There is nothing that ties him to the city. Again, we don't know why he was in Corona. There was a significant event and the contact with this gentleman, at Arlington and Magnolia was the only contact that we know about. We believe he departed the city afterwards.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He used the term coward to discount his manifesto and what do you think of the suspect?

DIAZ: I think my opinion of the suspect is on principal. You are right. The manifesto speaks for itself in terms of evidence of a deprave and abandoned mind and a heart, and the cowardly way that he ambushed your public servants and speaks to his character.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said that there is no connection that this man has to this city? Your ties to the LAPD in the past would that have anything to do with it?

DIAZ: I didn't participate and appear to be at the root of the grievances. I don't believe so. I wasn't named.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sounds like your officers were completely ambushed. Was there intelligence and any warning given that the LAPD was looking for the suspect? Did those officers in that car last night on their patrol have any idea there was a chance this suspect might do something like that?

DIAZ: Yesterday evening, the information was disseminated by the LAPD via the FBI's Joint Regional Intelligence Center so all law enforcement agencies in the region were aware of that. We disseminated the information about the suspect and his vehicle and his intent to our officers.

As I believe all agencies did last night. By the way, I wanted to add for the same reasons we are asking not to print the names of our officers, we don't want too much detail, but I look forward to when this person is in custody, being able to share with you some heroic acts on the part of civilian members of the city.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you patrol the streets and get out and put these people in danger, your police officers.

DIAZ: We made certain modifications to our deployment. To the way we -- there deviations and I want to leave it at that. Also we are concentrating on calls for service that are high priority and threats to public safety essentially.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The report that LAPD officers who were fired upon were protecting someone from this guy. Did you have anything like that?

DIAZ: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someone saw in that officer blocking off a street and wonder if that was connected.

DIAZ: First of all, no connection. We had an incident last night around the plaza. It's not related to this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This two-man unit, I know sometimes you have to man units. Was this a normal two-man unit for that shift or did that have anything to do with the threat out there?

DIAZ: No, this was a two-man unit because one of the officers were in training. The other was the trainer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said there were witnesses, did these people come to the aid of the officers and had they not intervened. You had two officers killed on the department this morning instead of one.

DIAZ: Possibly. At least one person came to the aid of the officer and because of that person's participation we were able to get help there quickly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The officer who is in training survived or is deceased.

DIAZ: No, the officer who is on training is the survivor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not just in terms of what you kept safe. You lost a guy. You lost one of your own. From an emotional standpoint, this has to be tough on you.

DIAZ: It doesn't get easier. We have a lot of tasks to accomplish. We have to solve the crime, catch the criminal and prepare the case for prosecution. We have to give the appropriate send off to our fallen brother. For me what I have to do is taking care of the family is troubling. We will do that. They are our family too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many more details of his 11 years on the force?

DIAZ: No, not really. I already have told you, he's a training officer and very well-respected individual. He is respected for the tactical prowess and we will leave it at that. Once we are able to tell you who that is, more biographical.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chief Able, there reports that perhaps officers in the city of Corona may have apprehended a suspect that matches the description of the guy they are looking for?

ABLE: That information is not correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you speak to the scope of the search right now? The manhunt, if you will. How many of them and the number of officers involved and agencies involved.

DIAZ: Of course, it's about the scope of the search. You folks term the manhunt. I couldn't tell you the number of agencies or officers. I will tell you this. The person suspected of doing this is mobile. So we know that --

BALDWIN: All right, we are going to jump out of this, but we have been listening to the better part of 20 minutes, multiple police chiefs. Riverside, California and Corona, California, all -- it's a frightening time today and the last couple of days in Southern California as this man, this former cop, ex-reservist and military Christopher Jordan Dorner has been involved in a string of shootings, some involving police officers.

That is why we were dipping into Riverside, California because that is the most recent shooting that we know of according to police. Around 1:45 today there was a murder and attempted murder on two Riverside police officers and part of what is frightening is this guy apparently is not only targeting police, but their families.

I think that chief put it best. He was asked his thoughts on the suspect. He said, quote, "My opinion of the suspect is unprintable." We have to talk more about this suspect and why he might be doing this and more about the manifesto and why he is intent on clearing his name and why he needs to clear his name. More on his termination and his past and what's happening right now, coming up.

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