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Mother Speaks Out About Baby Injured by SWAT Team; ACLU Reports on Militarized Police, Aggressive SWAT Raids; Mexican Police Helicopter Fires Shots Near American Border Patrol Agents; Obama Administration Struggles with Child Immigrants as Congress Dawdles.
Aired June 27, 2014 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Now, there were a lot of people at this performance last night. And we actually caught up with a couple people who were in the audience and they said, yeah, things were definitely weird. Listen to them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We didn't know if he was drunk, if -- I thought he was working on a role or something. Because it was obviously him. And he was quite a mess. He had a torn shirt. He had a cigarette. He was blending into the crowd -- trying to -- and chasing bums, and craziness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TURNER: Now, when he was being escorted out, we are also told he was dropping the F-bomb repeatedly and also doing that thing that celebrities do when they get in trouble, saying, "Do you know who I am." And once he got to the police station, this is where it gets really disgusting. He apparently spit in the direction or spit at an officer when he was being arrested. That's according to the criminal complaint.
BALDWIN: I'm just going to leave it there. We're going to move on.
Nischelle Turner, thank you so much.
BALDWIN: Coming up next, listen to this story. The SWAT team burst into a home on a drug raid, tossed a flash grenade that landed in a crib, the grenade exploded, seriously injuring this baby boy. His mother is speaking out in a piece she titled "A SWAT Team Blew a Hole in My 2-Year-Old Son." She and her husband tell their story, next.
BALDWIN: You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin here.
And this is a tough one. One mother living in Georgia, she wrote this incredible piece on salon.com this week. And part of it, she writes this. "A few nights ago, my 8-year-old woke up in the middle of the night screaming, 'No don't kill him, you're hurting my brother, don't kill him'." Who was her daughter afraid of? The police. Specifically the SWAT team whose raid left her baby brother -- and this is a tough picture to show. Not this one, but we have others here. This is Bou Bou, the nickname after a raid by Cornelia police and Habersham County deputies in Georgia on May 28th. His mother's article this week for Salon is called "A SWAT Team Blew a Hole in My 2-Year-Old Son." Here he is in the hospital.
A flash bang grenade that officers threw landed in this baby's crib. They were looking for a drug suspect who was later found at a different location. Bou Bou has been in a medically induced coma, and just this week allowed to wake up and head to a new facility to recover.
Obviously, it's a long road ahead. And not just for him, but his three sisters and the two people who now are sitting next to me, Baby Bou Bou's parents, Alecia and Phonesavanh. And also here, Marcus Coleman, the family spokesperson.
Thank you all for taking a minute away from the hospital.
I see, Alecia, you have the hospital bracelet and dad does too, because I imagine you're by his side a lot. So let me just begin with -- for background for people watching, you all lived in Wisconsin. Your home burned down in Wisconsin, so you came to stay with a family friend here in Georgia. Take me back. It was the middle of the night. What happened?
ALECIA PHONESAVANH, MOTHER OF BABY BOU BOU: Well, we were all sleeping. It was about 3:00 in the morning. And we heard a very loud noise, which woke us up. And then we heard more loud like bangs and a bright light flash. And then everybody -- myself, my husband, my kids, we were just shocked. We didn't know what was going on. One of the officers came in and pinned my husband down and tore his rotator cuff in the process of having him pinned down. My girls were freaking out. And then I heard my son start screaming and crying. And when I went to go pick him up, another officer grabbed him first. And I kept asking that officer, you know, give me my son, he's scared, he's crying, just let me have him, give him to me. And when I went to grab him, the officer told me --
BALDWIN: He stopped you.
ALECIA PHONESAVANH: Yes, he told me to shut up and go sit down.
BALDWIN: So you couldn't even see what happened. You were seeing smoke? And -- you saw this bang, and it literally landed in his crib.
ALECIA PHONESAVANH: Yep.
BOUNKHAM PHONESAVANH, FATHER OF BABY BOU BOU: We didn't know yet. We didn't have time. They tried to hide it from us. And then they pinned me down for a while and I told them, I couldn't breathe. I couldn't breathe. And he still pinned me down and sounded like he asked somebody, can you let me up. The other guy said no, not yet. So he still kept pinning me down and I couldn't breathe. So I just turned my head, wiggled my head around, opened my mouth and try to breathe so I don't pass out. And when they got me up, they had two officers standing and blocking the view of the crib. He walked me around the crib and took me outside.
BALDWIN: All the while, what is the SWAT team saying to you as far as any kind of explanation as to why they're in the house?
BOUNKHAM PHONESAVANH: Not yet during that time. Until they -- they came and got -- one of them came and got me and untied me and cut off the zip tie and then walked me out to the back room. And then he tells me why he was here. And stuff like that.
BALDWIN: Let me just get this in. This is a sound bite from the sheriff, reacting to what they say happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOEY TERRELL, SHERIFF, HABERSHAM COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: There was no clothes, there was no toys, there was nothing to indicate there was children present in the home. If there had been, we would have done something different.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: You're shaking your head. Why?
ALECIA PHONESAVANH: That picture that they just showed of the side of the house, you can clearly see the Pack and Play. Not only -- not even two feet from the door they entered in at and threw that grenade in. It was clear.
BOUNKHAM PHONESAVANH: It's right there.
BALDWIN: You say it was clear there were kids in the house.
ALECIA PHONESAVANH: Right there.
BOUNKHAM PHONESAVANH: The Pack and Play is right --
ALECIA PHONESAVANH: Right there, next to the door.
BALDWIN: As a mother, you're not allowed to even see what has happened to your 2-year-old.
BOUNKHAM PHONESAVANH: Right.
BALDWIN: Were you allowed to ride along in the ambulance to the hospital?
ALECIA PHONESAVANH: Nope. We had no idea of anything that had happened with our son. They kept telling us he's fine, he has not sustained any serious injury.
BALDWIN: He was missing a tooth.
ALECIA PHONESAVANH: Yep, he was missing a tooth. That's what they finally started telling us after -- we wanted an explanation, we wanted to know why there was blood on the concrete. My husband and I were there. We're not hurt. Our other girls are not hurt. Nobody else in the family got hurt. So where did that blood come from? Look at the play pen. What happened to our son? Why is there so much blood on the concrete?
BALDWIN: Tell me about the moment that you realized where the blood came from. When did you first see your son?
ALECIA PHONESAVANH: When we got to Grady.
BALDWIN: To the hospital.
ALECIA PHONESAVANH: Yes.
BALDWIN: And what did you see?
ALECIA PHONESAVANH: I saw my baby boy lying there. His face is blew open. And his nose wasn't even attached to his face. It was horrifying. Nobody wants to see their little kid like that.
BALDWIN: How is he doing now?
ALECIA PHONESAVANH: He's come a long way. But he's got a very long way to go. He has permanently lost his left nipple when the explosion happened. My husband has got to see the hole in his chest. I have -- I have not been able to --
BOUNKHAM PHONESAVANH: I didn't want to look at it at first. Until three days back when they changed the padding, I looked at it. It's still open this big.
BALDWIN: You could see ribs?
BOUNKHAM PHONESAVANH: Yep.
BALDWIN: It was a hole in his chest.
MARCUS COLEMAN, FAMILY SPOKESMAN: I just want to make sure that we're clear here. I mean, any due diligence of good policing would have prevented the injuries of this young boy. Georgia has a dirty history when it comes to over policing and not doing their due diligence, whether it is Bou Bou Phonesavanh having a face blown open on a botched drug raid all in the name of the war on drugs, whether it is Kendrick Johnson with a botched investigation resulting in a murder mystery.
I would just love to take this opportunity to send a message to Governor Deal and Kennedy Carter. We have a rare opportunity here in Georgia to set the tone across the nation to implement some public policies that put morality and human life and good policing at the top of the list. There is so much over policing taking -- sweeping across this nation.
So thankful to the ACLU's completion of their report that statistically documents that as a fact. And we owe it to our children to live in a world where they're not in fear of people that are supposed to uphold and protect us from the law.
BALDWIN: We are going to take a deeper dive on the other side of this break. There was an entire piece this morning in the "Washington Post" about SWAT teams.
Listen, a lot of it is necessary, because of hardened criminals, but at the same time, when you look at the situation, it just leaves you scratching your head.
Before we go to break and before I thank you for joining me, have you gotten any kind of apology face-to-face from any of these SWAT --
ALECIA PHONESAVANH: Nothing. Nothing for our son. No card, no balloon, not a phone call, not anything.
BOUNKHAM PHONESAVANH: I've just seen them making lies on the TV.
ALECIA PHONESAVANH: And laughing about it.
BALDWIN: Let us know if anything more happens. We're going to stay on this. And thank you so much for just pouring out what happened here live on TV. I really appreciate it.
And as I mentioned, we're going to talk about SWAT teams. And we'll talk to a former SWAT team leader about why they're necessary, but why others are saying they're militarized and this has to stop. Stay here.
BALDWIN: Let's pick up where we left off. You heard how a SWAT raid in Georgia left a 2-year-old boy disfigured and baby boo-boo's case is not alone. This week they mentioned the ACLU here. The American Civil Liberties Union came out with this report called "The Excessive Militarization of Policing" and found this one statistic for you, just under 80 percent of SWAT raids were to serve a search warrant, usually in drug cases. That means it wasn't for an active school shooting or a hostage situation. But most of the raids the ACLU looked at were focused on suspicion of a crime.
Joining me now, Chris Gephardt, a 15-year police veteran and three- time SWAT commander in Utah.
Chris, thank you so much for coming on, because I want to hear your side of this. You sat, you listened to this family's horrible story. What's your reaction to that?
CHRISTOPHER GEPHARDT, POLICE VETERAN & FORMER SWAT COMMANDER: Thanks for having me. I wish it was under better circumstances.
You know, what happened to Alecia and her baby should never happen anywhere in the United States, anywhere in the world. It -- not knowing the full investigation into what occurred, my initial gut reaction tells me there was a training issue. During training for deployment of a noise flash device, flash bang grenade, the officers are taught to look where they're going to deploy that device. We can assume no officer wants to do damage or hurt or injure a child. Obviously, there is something wrong.
BALDWIN: I understand there are hardened criminals and I want them like I'm sure they would want them behind bars. Why in so many of these instances, at least the ones we keep seeing over and over in the headlines are SWAT teams, you know, resulting in unnecessary violence?
GEPHARDT: You know, there is a misconception that SWAT teams are used on drug warrants. The warrants for drugs is not what justifies the use of the team. There's extenuating circumstances, such as there are known to have weapons in the house, known to possess weapons. And the ACLU accurately points out in their report that over half Americans have a firearm in their house. But I think SWAT teams need to start looking beyond that point and say is the person prone to use that firearm in an offensive manner against law enforcement, or do they just have a firearm? I have a firearm in my house. A police officer comes to my house, I'm not going to use the firearm against them.
BALDWIN: Quickly, what are your rights? Like in this case, this family, the SWAT team looking for someone who didn't even live in that home? What are this family's rights? What are anyone's rights if a SWAT team comes banging in?
GEPHARDT: You know, it's a very good question. Because it's -- presents a scary environment. You want to defend your house. You want to defend your family. I know if I heard a bump in the night, I would be grabbing for my firearm and trying to find out what is going on. Unfortunately, when it's the police officers coming in, we're supposed to be yelling and screaming, right, "police, police, police, search warrant, search warrant," to let the homeowners know this is a government intrusion that has been signed off on by a judge. But it's that split-second of interaction between the homeowner and the police officer in a stairway, in a dark stairway, that decides the fate of either that officer or that homeowner.
BALDWIN: Chris Gephardt, thank you so much for joining us. Just wanted to make sure we hear and see both sides of the story. Thank you.
We'll be back after this.
BALDWIN: Just into CNN, word that a Mexican police helicopter has now fired shots near American Border Patrol agents.
Let's go straight to Pamela Brown with more.
Pamela, what do you know?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here's what we're learning, Brooke. A U.S. law enforcement official telling CNN, a Mexican law enforcement helicopter crossed about 100 yards over the U.S.-Mexican border south of Tucson, Arizona, very early yesterday morning. And this chopper fired two shots very near some U.S. border agents who were right there on the ground, according to this official we spoke with. But none of those agents were hit. No one was injured in this incident.
Now the law enforcement official tells us, Brooke, the Mexican police chopper immediately stopped shooting and turned right back around into Mexico. And soon after that, Mexican authorities called U.S. authorities and acknowledged the incident and said it was a mistake. And we are told the Mexican police were conducting a drug operation right near the border there when they fired those two shots.
But, Brooke, at this point, we don't know if the Mexican chopper was following drug suspects and deliberately crossed the border as part of this mission or inadvertently strayed into U.S. territory. But at this point, all indications are pointing to this being an accident.
BALDWIN: OK. As soon as you get more information, obviously, let us know.
Pamela Brown, thank you for that.
And it is exactly now one year to the day after the Senate passed that bipartisan immigration reform bill, and in the years since that Senate bill was passed, what has Congress done on immigration reform? Zip. Nothing. As Congress dawdles on this issue, this is a humanitarian crisis, a steady stream of children. We have talked about this here a lot recently. Most from Central America, crossing the border. In fact, 400 coming into Texas each and every day, not with their families or even a single parent. Folks, these young ones are coming all alone. Now the Obama administration is struggling to feed and to care for this influx of kids. Some will be sent back to Central America. Others will wait for years for a court hearing. And many will blend in and become a generation of undocumented students and workers and parents.
So on this issue of immigration, let me bring in Pulitzer Prize- winning journalist, Jose Antonio Vargas, who came to the U.S. as a child. And despite his work and success, he remains undocumented because of what he calls and so many call our broken system.
Jose, we're going to talk in just a minute. And thank you so much for joining me.
I watched your film last night. But first, here's a clip, a tease for what we all get to watch Sunday night on CNN. Roll it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING JOURNALIST: I have become kind of a walking uncomfortable conversation. I get asked questions like why don't you just make yourself legal? And I think it's really important that we actually go through an application process to become a citizen so that you understand where the problem lies. Right? So here is a worksheet from the website of the U.S. citizenship and immigration services. Right? And it asks questions like, number one, I am at least 18 years old. Yes. Number two, I am a permanent resident of the United States, and I have been issued a permanent resident card. No. So I can't even make it past line two.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: That is a clip. Here he is, Jose.
I know the frustration. I can see it in your face, just looking at this again. Hang on, let me just step two steps back. For people who do not know your story. So you wrote this, this pretty stunning piece in the "New York Times" magazine a couple years ago called "Outlaw." So here in this piece. You publish your fake documents. You put your family at risk and, in part of it, you say I'm done running, I'm exhausted. And not -- to top writing it in the "New York Times," you now come out with this film, Jose, so publicly, saying hello, I'm undocumented. Aren't you still afraid?
VARGAS: No. I'm not. I -- once I let go of the fear, I spent all of my 20s and my teenage years being afraid of this country that I call my home and pledging allegiance to this flag that assistant belong to me. But once I let go of the fear, look, I'm in an incredibly privileged position to be doing what I'm doing. Right? People like me are detained and deported every day, and what do I do? I make a film. So with great privilege, I think comes great responsibility. So that's what I'm trying to do.
And by the way, my expression that you see on my face is I'm so glad you played that clip. Because that clip really underscores just the level of misunderstanding and misperception. Not only, by the way, among politicians, but even among journalists about this issue and about the fact that no matter how many times people say, "Get legal, get in the back of the line," there is no line.
BALDWIN: That's so much of the issue in this film. People say, OK, try to become a citizen and get in line. You meet the couple who their daughter-in-law from Britain took 10 years. It takes years and years. And your whole point is, where is the line?
VARGAS: Where is the line? And to me, I mean, immigration is the most controversial, yet least understood issue in America. And I think what we really lack is a sense of honesty. Right? Intellectual honesty and moral honesty. That's when people ask me. I mean, lawyers told me I was crazy to come out in the way I did it and to admit to everything I had to do to survive. I thought what I needed to do was say, look, here, America, this is what I have to do -- paying taxes, Social Security, working here, going to school here. I think what's still lacking from our leaders is honesty, right? And I don't think we're having a real conversation about this issue at all.
BALDWIN: Well, I hope that by airing this film, at least it educates, and we can have that honest conversation.
And speaking of honesty, I mean, this -- your film gets very real. And especially the narrative, and that involves your mother and how you have not seen her since you came to the states in 1993. And just to end this, because here you have, Jose, these tens of thousands of kids being, as we mentioned, in these detention centers, coming alone from Central America. Here you were. You came from a little farther away. But, you know, with smugglers, you know, wanting this new sense of home.
Let me play this quick sound bite, because I really want your opinion. George Stephanopoulos talked to President Obama about this pressing issue. Here is the president's response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, our message, absolutely, is don't send your children unaccompanied on trains or through a bunch of smugglers. That is our direct message to the families in Central America: Do not send your children to the borders. If they do make it, they'll get sent back. More importantly, they may not make it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: You were the child with the smuggler. How should the administration handle this?
VARGAS: I have to say that I understand and I respect the fact that a country like ours needs to protect and secure its borders. I get that, right?