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Violent Protests Rage in Missouri; U.S. Rescue Mission on Mt. Sinjar Unlikely; Interview with Rear Admiral John Kirby

Aired August 14, 2014 - 08:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: The anger and unrest is not going away.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking new details on the shooting that sparked the protests. Witnesses coming forward only to CNN, what they say happened the day Mike Brown was killed as the police chief claims the cop who fired the shot was injured in the altercation.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Escape from the mountain. U.S. military personnel have left the mountain where thousands of Iraqis were stranded. Those advisers saying a military operation to save them may not be necessary. So, what's next?

BOLDUAN: Your NEW DAY continues right now.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira.

BOLDUAN: Good morning, and welcome once again to NEW DAY. It's Thursday, August 14th, 8:00 in the East.

John Berman is here, Chris is off today.

All eyes are on Ferguson, Missouri, this morning, where a fifth night of protests against police is perhaps the ugliest night yet. You can see the chaos as police unload tear gas and flash bangs on demonstrators who officials there say were throwing Molotov cocktails. This all stems from the police shooting death of an unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

This video that you're looking at here is from a local radio station there.

Our local affiliate says two officers were hurt and 16 people arrested, including two reporters who had been working in a fast food restaurant at the time.

BERMAN: Missouri's Governor Jay Nixon headed to Ferguson again today. President Obama has also been briefed, and cell phone video obtained by CNN shows a family member being kept away from Michael Brown's body after the shooting. The officer remains unidentified right now, still because of safety concerns.

I want to get back to CNN's Ana Cabrera right now live in Ferguson.

Ana, what's it like there this morning?

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, we are just outside the police station where all of those protests came to an end just four or five hours ago. You can see it is calm. It is quiet here, a break in the unrest this morning.

We've learned that the police chief here in Ferguson will be meeting with the parents of Michael Brown today, along with a representative from the NAACP, as well as representative of the U.S. Justice Department's community relations division who is also here on the ground in Ferguson. This as the governor comes to visit here again for a second time in less than a week, and we head into another day of uncertainty.


CABRERA (voice-over): Overnight, Ferguson erupted, perhaps the most chaotic protests and police response yet. Angry crowds throwing bottles at law enforcement and police firing tear gas and flash-bangs to disperse them. A TV news crew on the scene runs for cover after a tear gas canister lands directly in front of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There it goes. They're now firing on to the crowd. Ouch! They are firing rubber bullets.

CABRERA: Dramatic video shot by a reporter on the ground captures utter chaos. Police advance on the protesters, sending them running in fear.

As officers fire rubber bullets and smoke grenades in this residential neighborhood. At least 18 arrested overnight, including two journalists, detained while police attempted to clear out a local McDonald's, the altercation caught on camera.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go. Let's go. We don't have time to ask questions. Let's go.

CABRERA: This as new cell phone video from just after Brown was killed captures the heartbreaking moment when a man believed to be Brown's uncle rushes to his lifeless body and is immediately pushed away by police.

The witness who captured this video also says she saw the shooting unfold, telling CNN's Don Lemon exclusively the details of what she witnessed.

TIFFANY MITCHELL, EYEWITNESS TO MICHAEL BROWN SHOOTING: What I saw was when the cop and Michael were like wrestling through the window. It looked as if Michael was pushing off and the cop was trying to pull him in. Then the cop shot a fire through the window.

Michael breaks away and he starts running away from the officer. The officer gets out of his vehicle and pursues Michael as he's shooting his weapon. Michael jerks his body as if he was hit, and then he turns around, faces the officer, and puts his hands up, and the officer continues to shoot him until he goes down to the ground.

CABRERA: Another eyewitness describes how the officer repeatedly shoots Brown, who was unarmed.

MITCHELL: He was trying to get away from him. Why did he continue to shoot at him? I still don't get that part at all. Like why was he killed trying to get away from the officer?

PIAGET CRENSHAW, EYEWITNESS TO SHOOTING: Even as he turned around and put his arms in the air, he was over killed, shot multiple times.

CABRERA: Multiple witnesses tell a similar story while police maintain Brown assaulted the officer in his car and tried to take his weapon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A shooting out of Ferguson, 2190 said they had more shots fired in the area.

CABRERA: The police chief now says the officer suffered injuries to his face during the altercation and was taken to a local hospital.

CHIEF THOMAS JACKSON, FERGUSON POLICE DEPARTMENT: He is very shaken about what happened that day and the aftermath.

CABRERA: Earlier Wednesday, police had asked that all protests be held during the daytime. But Wednesday night's protests continued as scheduled. Police responded with force.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're now firing on to the crowd. Ouch!


CABRERA: Now, because things are so heated here on the ground, we are seeing a trickle-down effect. We now have learned that the start of the school year has been postponed because of all of this. Classes were supposed to start today but now have been postponed to start on Monday, in the hopes that this situation can stabilize or settle down.

Many here fear that things could still escalate. We know the group Anonymous which has been active on social media with a following is now calling for a national day of rage today, urging people all around the country to come out and protest in solidarity with the people of Ferguson -- John.

BERMAN: Ana Cabrera, in Ferguson for us -- thanks so much.


BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.

Let's bring in the attorney for Michael Brown's family, Benjamin Crump. Mr. Crump, you will remember, also represented Trayvon Martin's family.

Mr. Crump, thanks so much for the time.


BOLDUAN: Of course.

We were just hearing from our reporter on the ground, Ana Cabrera. She's hearing of a meeting between the Brown family and the police chief. What can you tell us?

CRUMP: Not aware of that meeting taking place. We are trying to set a meeting with the members of the Justice Department.

BOLDUAN: Does Michael Brown's parents want to meet with the police chief?

CRUMP: Well, they've been waiting to hear what happened when their son was killed in broad daylight, and they've been waiting very patiently, but they haven't heard any explanations.

BOLDUAN: So they would be open to a meeting if the police chief made himself available?

CRUMP: Well, they would be open to a meeting with the police chief to tell them why the officer shot their son in broad daylight. They are very emotional about this, as any parents would be, Kate.

BOLDUAN: And that's very understandable.

What would they like, you say that's what they want to hear from the police chief what happened that day. What would they like to say or what questions do they have for the police chief if that meeting does take place?

CRUMP: They want to know how can you justify shooting their unarmed 18-year-old son multiple times in the middle of the street in broad daylight? He had a t-shirt, shorts, and flip flops on. It's obvious that he didn't have a weapon.

So, like all the people in that community, many people around the country, they are just in shock that this could happen to an unarmed teenager in broad daylight. This makes no sense and they feel there's no way it can be justified.

BOLDUAN: And some of the shock we're also seeing play out in terms of anger and outrage, we saw really the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, erupt overnight. I know you've seen some of the video that we've been playing on our air, the reporters have been showing.

What does the family say? What is the family making of the violence that they saw overnight?

CRUMP: Well, for Lesley and Michael and all their family have been asking that people be responsible and protest peacefully, but not to do irresponsible things and not to be violent. That isn't -- would be appropriate legacy for Michael Brown Jr.

What we need to do is make sure we're concentrating on getting justice for Michael, not just being angry. And so, they're sending a message to everybody who truly cares about Michael Brown and his family -- let's try to be peaceful, and responsible in our protests, because understand, Kate, these people saw, in that community, what happened to this child, and they saw his body laying out there on the ground for hours, and it was very troubling, because many of these people know this family, and they are asking themselves, if it can happen to him, it can happen to my child, and it is very troubling and especially with no transparency.

They will give the fact, and say an officer is injured, but they won't tell the family how many times their son was shot. Now, how is that fair?

BOLDUAN: As you mentioned, the officer being injured, that is just coming out, that came out yesterday that we learned the police are saying that the officer involved was treated at a hospital for a swollen face. They do maintain that a fight of some kind took place.

Do you leave open that possibility?

CRUMP: Well, all the witness accounts said that the officer tried to confront Michael, and so they all have said that, but we don't know what happened.

But what we do know, Kate, is this: there is nothing Michael Brown could have done to justify him being executed in broad daylight, and this is the worst police shooting I have ever seen and I've seen a lot of them, and it is very troubling, and we have to get answers and it has to be transparent.

And that's why we're calling on the Justice Department and the attorney general to do an independent autopsy, because the trajectory of these bullets are going to be a very important factor in trying to understand this case, because everybody's looking at this case, there's color blind curiosity on this case. Everybody wants to know, not just black people, white people, Hispanic people, anybody who is looking is saying how do you justify killing a kid who is unarmed in broad daylight, multiple shots?

BOLDUAN: As horrible as it is, some of the answers that his parents may be seeking may come from an autopsy. I've seen some reporting that his body has been released to the family. Is that the case? If so, what is the family going to do? Do you have an independent autopsy already set up?

CRUMP: Yes, ma'am. But we want the federal Justice Department to do an autopsy that's completely independent. So, St. Louis law enforcement agency has done their autopsy, but the family and the community are very distrustful, because they don't feel that in the past, things have been transparent, even with the officer's name, you know, the first opportunity to show everybody they're going to be very open and transparent, they say no, we're not going to give the officer's name.

BOLDUAN: That has been the big question of the police department withholding the identity of the officer. Do you, does the family know the identity of this officer?

CRUMP: The family knows nothing, Kate, and we want to know the identity of the officer, because we want to know, what is his history? What's in his jacket, as they say? Has he had any issues before like this, has he been through culture sensitivity training, has he been through use of force training? All these are going to be incredibly important questions when you get down to the crux of the matter of why Michael Brown was executed in broad daylight unarmed.

BOLDUAN: The big question, of course, is that, what happened that day. Those are the answers that his parents deserve, the community deserves.

You have also been there for days now. You've seen the anger. We're seeing the outrage play out on a daily basis. At this point, what do you think will calm people down?

CRUMP: I think transparency, Kate, and understand, we want to make it loud and clear, we asked everybody, please, respect the rule of law. We don't want anybody to get hurt over trying to stand up for Michael Brown and the tragic way that he was killed. Transparency is the key.

People need to have confidence and trust that there's going to be an independent investigation and due process for Michael Brown and his family will get answers so we can say the system works equally and fair for Michael Brown as well as the police.

We want equal transparency but right now, it's been one-sided. The police officer got hit, and they say they only tell us how many times Michael Brown got hit with bullets. That is not transparency.

BOLDUAN: Benjamin Crump, thank you again for your time.

CRUMP: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: All right. We'll continue to stay on top of the story as we have. The violence breaking out but as he said keeping the focus on finding out what happened to that 18-year-old boy, what happened that day Saturday, get some answers for his family.

PEREIRA: They need that at the very least, don't they, Kate?

BOLDUAN: That's exactly right.

PEREIRA: All right. Let's look at our headlines at 13 minutes past the hour.

To the Middle East now where a new five-day cease-fire appears to be holding in Gaza despite a brief round of airstrikes. Israel responded to rocket fire just moments after a truce was announced. It's unclear who launched those rockets from Gaza. Hamas claims they are not responsible.

Meanwhile, negotiators in Cairo are expected to resume talks for a long-term truce. Pope Francis is in South Korea this morning, the first trip by a

pontiff in some 25 years. But just before he arrived, North Korea launched five short range rockets. The last one fired about a half hour before the pope's arrival in Seoul. During his five-day trip, he's expected to hold mass with families of victims of the ferry disaster. North Korean escapees, and also former sex slaves.

Good old conventional wisdom taking it on the chin in a new study on salt intake. Researchers say healthy people can eat about twice the amount of salt that's currently recommended for a daily diet, and that consuming too little sodium can actually be harmful to your health.

BERMAN: Oh, this is helpful.

PEREIRA: The study found there's a sweet spot for salt intake between 3,000 and 6,000 milligrams a day. The research was published in the "New England Journal of Medicine."

BOLDUAN: What do we do with this, folks?

BERMAN: Not too much, not too little.

BOLDUAN: Just right.

PEREIRA: I think that we need to have a modicum amount of balance, no?

BOLDUAN: Oh, Michaela, that is the easy answer that no one can stick to.

BERMAN: Please.

PEREIRA: We do tend to binge on one or the other. We're a funny group, us humans.

BOLDUAN: We'll continue to ponder that, us humans, in the break.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, we're going to have much more on the escalating situation in Missouri. We will speak with one of the two reporters that were arrested last night in Ferguson.

But first, we will talk with the Pentagon spokesman about what is next in Iraq, with a live report from a camp just inside Syria, where thousands of Yazidis are seeking safety, seeking refuge. A look at the depth of this humanitarian crisis a head.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone.

The possible evacuation of thousands of refugees under siege by ISIS in northern Iraq, that evacuation now on hold, after a U.S. military assessment found far fewer Yazidis stranded on Mt. Sinjar than previously thought. The Pentagon says a rescue mission is less likely to happen. Still, we want to make this clear: the humanitarian crisis is far from over. CNN's Ivan Watson has seen this crisis firsthand from the air, from

the ground. This morning, he's in a Yazidi refugee camp in the Syrian Iraqi border.

Good morning, Ivan.


That's right, the humanitarian crisis far from over, and spilling across borders. We are in Syria right now, this is a refugee camp that sprang up in the last 10 days -- 5,000 families I'm told living here, and they're getting some supplies. You can see tents perhaps in the background, getting some food, some medical care.

But everybody you talk to, under every tent, there is a horrific story of people who fled their homes terrified, who lost loved ones on the way, and during a march through the desert to escape, some of them lost loved ones as well.

As one woman I talked to said who hadn't seen her son, he went missing, she called him, and an ISIS militant answered the phone and told the family, whoever we capture we kill, so this is a phenomenon now spilling across borders, numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

I've been talking to Rashid and Ishmael.

Everybody here is a Yazidi, right?


WATSON: And you're all from the Sinjar region.


WATSON: Did you see the ISIS fighters?


WATSON: You saw them?


WATSON: You saw their flags?


WATSON: Can you go back home?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's -- it's dangerous.

WATSON: It's dangerous?


WATSON: You've seen people hurt?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want to stay in Arab country because we can't live in any country, other country -- other country, Arab, not have anything, just fighting.

WATSON: OK, just fighting.

OK, thank you, gentlemen.

So, just coming back to you, John, people here are saying they can't even live with Arabs anymore because they feel they're in danger and this region is so prone to conflict -- John.

BERMAN: Ivan, as you say, every person on the run, every person there had their lives turned upside down, every person there living in fear.

Our Ivan Watson on the Syria/Iraq border, thanks so much for being with us.

We want to talk about the situation on the ground, where Ivan is, but also on Mt. Sinjar, where the fighting has been raging with U.S. airstrikes over the last few days.

I want to bring in Pentagon press secretary, Rear Admiral John Kirby.

Admiral Kirby, thank you so much for being with us.

"The New York Times" reporting this morning, talking about the siege, the situation on Mt. Sinjar, the ISIS siege of Mt. Sinjar. They say that the siege is broken. Have you broken the siege on Mt. Sinjar right now?

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I don't know that we would characterize it in exactly those terms, John. What we do believe is that thanks to the airstrikes we conducted around the mountain on ISIL positions and thanks to the thousands and thousands -- tens of thousands of gallons of water and meals that we provided through airdrops that we have greatly alleviated the humanitarian crisis on the mountain, and facilitated, frankly, the departure of tens of thousands of refugees from the mountaintop, that they were able to get out safely with Peshmerga forces supporting them.

So, I don't know that I characterize it as a siege broken but certainly we don't believe the humanitarian crisis up there is near as bad as what we had feared it would be and therefore, we don't believe we need at least for the time being to mount any kind of evacuation mission.

BERMAN: So, it is less likely or not likely at all that you will mount this evacuation operation.

KIRBY: That's right. BERMAN: You did say that the air strikes there have been successful

on Mt. Sinjar. Doesn't that indicate to you that airstrikes then might be successful against ISIS positions in other parts of Iraq?

KIRBY: Well, we continue to look at the possibility for air strikes in northern Iraq, for two reasons. One, and the president was clear about this, to protect U.S. personnel and facilities in and around Irbil. And we continue to strike targets in and around Irbil for that purpose. In fact, the majority of the airstrikes have been for that purpose, but also to help alleviate that humanitarian crisis in northern Iraq particularly around the mountain. As I said, we believe those strikes were effective. They were able to disrupt ISIL activities and their firing upon those refugees to the degree that the refugees feel safer leaving them out.

BERMAN: So, they were effective, they were disruptive. What else have you learned? Where else could this be effective right now in this conflict?

KIRBY: Well, we're constantly assessing the situation on the ground, John. I don't want to get ahead of future operations. Again, we still have assessment teams in Iraq, we still have two joint operation centers, one of them is up in the north, up in Irbil, to get as best a view on the ground as we can.

So, again, I don't want to speculate about future ops, but our direction has been clear from the president on the two missions that we need to be conducting inside Iraq right now.

BERMAN: And I appreciate you don't want to speculate on future operations right now, you don't want to tip your hand. But this is evidence at least that some kind of operations are effective in your own words. Is it possible something like this might be effective against the ISIS militants across the border in Syria?

KIRBY: Well, again, I'm not speculating about future operations, John. Our focus is inside Iraq on two things, protecting U.S. personnel and facilities and alleviating the humanitarian crisis -- in conjunction with the two missions, we have taken effective strikes against ISIL positions, ISIL artillery, mortar positions and vehicles, and we're going to continue to look at the situation on the ground, and we have the authority, the president's given us that authority to strike if and when we think it's necessary to do so, inside those two missions.

BERMAN: How would you characterize the condition of these ISIS militants inside of Iraq?

KIRBY: Well, look, they're not just in the north. They've got strongholds further south and the middle of the country. Again our focus is mostly in the north. Where we have hit them, we believe we have been effective. We have disrupted their activities, made them rethink what they're doing up there. There's no question about it.

But elsewhere in the country, they remain a significant threat. Nobody is underestimating the barbarism and the sheer brutality of these guys and what they're doing. But ultimately -- and we've said this before -- this is an Iraqi fight to fight. We can support them a little bit, and we will, but we're not going to become the Iraqi air force.

This is a fight that they need to fight. We're going to try to facilitate that fight.

BERMAN: And I appreciate it and I don't mean to keep hammering but you keep saying where we have hit them, they have been disruptive. So, it does beg the question, why not hit them in more places?

Let me -- I know you don't want to answer that.

KIRBY: Yes --

BERMAN: So, let me talk about the Kurdish forces. I asked to you assess the ISIS forces on the ground. What about the Kurdish forces, the Peshmerga right now.

Have their fighting capabilities been improved since U.S. airstrikes came into play?

KIRBY: Oh, I think so and I think for a number of reasons. First of all, they're good fighters in general. The Peshmerga are very, very professional, very skilled fighters.

But the airstrikes that we've taken have not only helped take some of the pressure off of them, it's bolstered their morale, and as been reported, we are facilitating the provision of supplies and equipment to them, mostly through the Iraqi security forces that have been providing supplies, we've been transporting those supplies. So, they're being reconstituted, they're being resupplied.

I think airstrikes have taken some pressure off of them and as I said, also boosted their morale. Not that this is a force that needs a whole lot of morale boosting, they're good fighters.

BERMAN: "The Wall Street Journal" reporting that some Iranian advisers have been involved in the area right now where this fighting is raging in the north. Can you confirm that, and would you welcome the involvement of the Iranians at a certain level?

KIRBY: I can't confirm Iranian involvement or positions up there. I really don't have that kind of information, John.

What we have said in the past is look, we know that Iran has equities. We know they have Shia militia that are fighting in Iraq. Our message has been to Iran and all of Iraq's neighbors, let's not do anything to further enflame sectarian tensions inside Iraq. As bad as it is, for those people who want to help, let's help in such a way that we don't make the situation worse.

BERMAN: Admiral Kirby, always a pleasure having you with us. I really appreciate it.

KIRBY: Thanks, John. Good to be with you. BERMAN: Next up for us on NEW DAY: A strong police presence in Ferguson Missouri as protests turned violent for another night. We're going to speak with a reporter who says he was roughed up and detained -- a reporter roughed up and detained under on a false arrest.