Return to Transcripts main page


Shooter Revealed; Missouri Highway Patrol Press Conference in Ferguson

Aired August 15, 2014 - 12:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It's Friday, August the 15th, and welcome to LEGAL VIEW.

At any moment now we're expecting live word from Missouri's governor, along with the state highway patrol captain who is leading, effectively keeping the community safe at this moment, they are expected to brief reporters on the security situation right now in the community of Ferguson, as well as the fallout from the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. So many new details and yet so few in the grand scheme of things. We're going to try and put the biggest picture together that we can. And again, just as soon as that live event begins, we'll break into it and take those microphones live.

The big question this hour, did Michael Brown lose his life because of a box of cigars and the theft of it? Six days after Brown was shot dead by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, police have made public the officer's name. And it was something that was highly sought after. Also, some general information on that officer's background.

And then there's this too. Images of what happened before the shooting. The officers have connected the deadly confrontation to a convenience store robbery just minutes earlier.

First, let's talk about the shooter. He is Darren Wilson, a six-year veteran of the Ferguson Police force. His chief says that he has a clean record, meaning no disciplinary infractions. Chief also tells CNN that Wilson is, quote, "devastated" by what's happened.

We want to get straight to our Ana Cabrera, who is live on the ground in Ferguson with a lot more details of what transpired this morning. So walk me through that live news conference and the critical elements that we have learned about what preceded the shooting of Michael Brown.

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ashleigh, first, let me set the scene here.

We are at the Quik Trip. This is where that news conference happened. This is also where we have seen days of protests that have really grown into unrest. Calm here though last night. So that all preceded what happened just behind me a couple of hours ago. You can see protesters now gathering here on site here. We've seen peaceful protests since that news conference, but a renewed anger, frustration and passion within this community following Police Chief Thomas Jackson's comments. You already talked about Officer Darren Wilson. What we learned about

the robbery is that it is connected to Michael Brown's death in terms of the two cases being connected. We learned that robbery happened about 14 minutes before the officer shot and killed Michael Brown. He apparently went into this convenience store, up the road from here, and was with his friend, named in the report as Michael Brown and Dorian Johnson, walked into the convenience store and allegedly took some cigars. When confronted, saying they had to pay for those cigars, in the report the officer takes down a statement saying that Michael Brown took the shirt of an employee in there and shoved him into a display rack before leaving the store with those cigars.

Now, according to the officer who was taking the report, this dispatcher, 911, reported that they were going in the direction of the Quik Trip. That's why this Quik Trip is part of this story. And apparently Officer Darren Wilson was responding to that and encountered Michael Brown and Dorian Johnson.

Now, this new information that came out says nothing specific about that encounter between Michael Brown, Dorian Johnson and the officer, Darren Wilson. But it does say that from the time he encountered them, until the time another officer responded to the scene, it was just three minutes. And at that moment, Michael Brown was already on the floor, had been shot several times.


BANFIELD: And, Ana, I just want to, again, draw our viewer's attention to this live news conference the Missouri governor is about to give any moment. So if I have to cut you off, it's only because the governor will trump our reporting.

But take me to that critical name because for six days everyone has been waiting and many demanding the name of the officer involved. And now we have it, a name, Darren Wilson, and so little else.

CABRERA: We just are working so hard to get more information because everybody wants to know a little bit more about his past professionally and also a little more about him personally. All we know, though, is really what the police chief has said about him. And, of course, we have sources, we have public records that we are working to try to vet to make sure that we have accurate information that we report about this officer. Darren Wilson is the name that is apparently popular. We've seen a lot of Darren Wilsons in the stuff that we're looking at and so we want to make sure we're talking about the right Darren Wilson.

BANFIELD: Do we -- Ana, do we even know where - where he is?


BANFIELD: Have they addressed where he is? Where -

CABRERA: No, no.

BANFIELD: Whether he's being kept safe? CABRERA: No.

BANFIELD: How they're - you know, how they're controlling the situation because there have been death threats in the past to fake names that have been release.

CABRERA: Exactly. Exactly. Security is of utmost importance and that's why we don't know where he is because the police, of course law enforcement, not only the police department, local police department, but state law enforcement, you know, they've been working together to ensure this officer's safety before his name was released. And so we were told by the police chief that they feel very good that he is safe and secure. His family is safe and secure. It's a small town, 21,000 people. The kind of town a lot of people know each other. And so it's very likely that there are residents that maybe do know he lives.

BANFIELD: Ana, just going to cut you off. The governor - the governor, Jay Nixon, is speaking live. Let's listen in.

GOV. JAY NIXON (D), MISSOURI: Hello, can you hear me now? (INAUDIBLE) the back. OK, I'll talk louder. I can talk loud. They can moderate. OK.

We just finished initial overnight security briefing. I want to thank those folks for giving that. Clearly, as we've seen over the last 18 to 20 hours, we've made progress. Work continues to insure both the safety and the freedom of people to assemble and to express their views while respecting property and staying safe.

I want to thank all of law enforcement for their work last night and their continuing work today. Moving forward, our goal is to make sure we keep the peace while these parallel investigations are going on, get done, continue, and justice is served. As we saw this develop a couple days ago we worked on a number of things. One of the things I did was to make sure that we were going to get security in a situation here where folks felt secure and willing and able to express their opinions while these important investigations about this horrific tragedy were carried out. In that sense, I ordered the colonel of highway patrol to begin both the planning and executing of that. Let me turn it over to the colonel who will go through a couple of very small matters and then turn it over to Captain Johnson for the daily briefing.

Thank you.

Colonel Ron Rapobal (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, governor, and thank you for your leadership over the past couple of days.

The governor called me and let -- the governor called me and said that he wanted us to take control of the security situation and I needed to pick a commander for that job. And we have a lot of resources that we can bring to the table. But I can assure you the best resource that the highway patrol has is its personnel. And the best resource that I could bring to this situation in Ferguson, Missouri, was Captain Ron Johnson. And I think you've seen the tremendous job that he's already done here in this community over the evening. Thank you.

BANFIELD: We've just -- we've unfortunately just lost the audio of the superintendent of the Missouri Highway Patrol but he is effectively introducing the person who, in the last 24 hours, has, for all intents and purposes, made a world of difference in the security situation on the ground in Ferguson. If you've been following this story, five nights of unrest and violence, flash bang grenades and riot squads in the street. Last night, no arrests that were being reported so far. Relative calm. And, in fact, it seemed like some celebration in the street as well. The difference being that Captain Ron Johnson has taken over, the captain who is effectively running the security situation in this area. Let's check in and check on the audio situation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Assignment I had to consider the resources of the highway patrol. Certainly our best resource are our people. And the best resource that I could bring to this situation was Captain Ron Johnson. So I would like to introduce him, for him to update you on the events that occurred last night and what's ahead for today.

So, Captain Johnson.


And if you can't hear me, I'll step out into the crowd a little bit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're doing great.

JOHNSON: OK. Well, I can tell you this -


JOHNSON: All right. All right. But I'm going to tell you, I'll stand there. But if the crowd can't hear me, then I'm going to step out there and they can tell you what I say, because I'm here to make sure they hear what we're talking about. They can't hear me. So I'm going to step out here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take the mic with you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) crowd listen to the media.


JOHNSON: (INAUDIBLE). Get a little bit closer. Come closer. (INAUDIBLE) people behind you. I'm talking about the people behind you, come in closer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is putting the people - bringing the people from the citizens - he's coming closer.

BANFIELD: We're working to re-establish this audio -- audio issue after the captain -- there we go.

JOHNSON: (INAUDIBLE) the people that live in our community. When this day's over, a lot of people will be gone. The people behind you will be here and I'll be here, OK? So I will answer your questions.

Last night was a great night. It was a great night. There was no cause for service. We did not deploy tear gas. We did not have any roadblocks. We did not make any arrests. It was a good night. People were talking. People were inspiring each other. People were getting their voices out and we were communicating a lot better. And they were communicating better with us. We had many leaders and activists out there yesterday that were helping keep the road open, informing the crowd, and that's what I expect to continue throughout this event.

Our department, along with St. Louis County, St. Louis city, had a great night. Myself and Chief Behlmer (ph) went down to the Quik Trip yesterday and walked and shook hands and talked to people and listened and promised that we're going to communicate better and we're going to give answers to their needs. And we're going to continue to do that each and every night. You're going to see me walking down there. This morning when I came, it's the first thing that I did, before I even came up here and got a briefing from our officers here at the command post, we went down there and so I could get a briefing from the people that are living in this community, so I could come back and have a proper conversation here at the command post.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) the release of the officer's name and also the security footage showing the suspect possibly involved in a strong arm robbery (INAUDIBLE).

JOHNSON: I think the release of the name was what was requested by the community. And they've gotten it. I have not seen the video. I was watching the news this morning when I heard that it came out. So I've not seen that. So it would be hard for me to comment on that.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE). A lot of people are (INAUDIBLE) it's open the wound once again, there's anger once again --

JOHNSON: Well, I can tell you that today I will meet with the chief of Ferguson and talk about how that was released, try to get a copy or be able to analyze the packet that they have. And this afternoon, I will be walking back down to the Quik Trip and I would talk to the people there and explain what I see in the packet and some of the questions that may be unclear in the presentation this morning, I will try to make those clear. But I can tell you, our task here is to ensure the safety of the citizens of Ferguson, the health of the businesses in Ferguson, but also to ensure that the people of Ferguson have their voice, their right to speech, their right to gather, is maintained. And that's what we will continue to do.

QUESTION: Captain, what about security and the police officer involved in the (INAUDIBLE)?

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) handled. Is there any concern about security with his name released? Is he being protected? Is there concern about his safety?

JOHNSON: I have not talked to Chief Tom Jackson.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE). JOHNSON: Ii have not talked to Chief Tom Jackson. And so I'm - I am unaware of any things he has in place.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) this morning that young man that they - in the picture it looked like him, but the picture is (INAUDIBLE) brown man in the middle of the street. He had long striped stocks on with black and white tennis shoes with a black (INAUDIBLE). And they're saying that he is Mike Brown in that picture and I just think that is so unfair to compare (INAUDIBLE) the whole picture, from head to toe.

JOHNSON: And I have not seen that.


JOHNSON: But I guarantee you, I will look at that packet and I will look at that. And that's why I'm down there so I can get this kind of information.

QUESTION: Captain, did the locals mishandle the (INAUDIBLE)?

JOHNSON: Like we've talked before, I am going to talk about yesterday. And I think yesterday we handled it just right. We shook hands and we hugged and we had a great time and we're going to talk about last night and move forward today. And I can tell you, what happened last night is what's going to happen here forward.

QUESTION: Is there now a strained relationship between the state and the locals?

JOHNSON: No, there's not. I talked to Chief Behlmer last night. You see their officers here. Officers riding hand-in-hand. And, no, there's not.

QUESTION: How do you explain the timing of these releases? The community has been asking for the name of this officer to be released for a long time now and it comes on the very same day that the police release footage that's purported to be Michael Brown involved in some kind of robbery. What's behind the timing of this?

JOHNSON: I really can't tell you what the timing is because I saw it on the news this morning along with everybody else.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the same day as the officer's name, it seems to me --

JOHNSON: I can't answer that. That may have been a question to ask Chief Jackson this morning.

QUESTION: -- talking about the state releasing more information, like what happened in the car? A lot of people have been (inaudible).

JOHNSON: I can tell you, as far as releasing information on the investigation, we're not involved in (inaudible).

Let me answer the question. Our patrol's not involved in that part of the investigation. The governor has tasked us to provide security. He wants to make sure that people of Ferguson are safe and that they have a right to protest and speak their mind. So that's what he's tasked us to do, and that's why we're here.

QUESTION: -- there are going to be a lot of questions about what happened (inaudible) the investigation, what exactly happened, can you talk about just how law enforcement is approaching suspects and what you try to do to make sure that shootings don't occur?

JOHNSON: You know, yesterday, you saw me out there talking, communicating. understanding, and respecting. And that's our task. That's what this uniform stands for.

When you look at a lot of the mission statements of law enforcement, it talks about respect and service, and so that's number one. I can't speak about the incident there. I wasn't there. And I think it would be unfair to speak on something I don't know about.

But the things that I do know about is what I will speak to. The things that are questions I can get answers to, I will give to you, and I promise you that. And I will continue to do that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) have been consulted before they released the information, the images (inaudible).

JOHNSON: I would have liked to have been consulted.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) a lot of the criticism has been at the local police, that they deployed a very militarized unit. What are we going to see from your department?

JOHNSON: Were you here last night? All right. You're going to see a bunch of smiles, a bunch of hugs, a bunch of conversations, so that's what you're going to see from me.

Go ahead. You got to get down to get that/

QUESTION: (Inaudible) and I was one of the ones that sat back and said, hold up, let's wait and hear what the official word is. I took a lot of pressure for holding up, wait, let's see what the official word is (inaudible).

But now it's come out this morning. I'm concerned that now the official word comes out, it comes out limited, with the release of the officer's name, followed immediately or including all this other b.s. about it possibly being Mike Johnson.

Then to hear you say you weren't included in the release of the information, although you're in this high-profile position, I find it utterly disgusting. And now I don't know how I can go back to my community and say, hey, I asked you to hold up, wait for official word. They gave this (inaudible) as the official position.

What am I supposed to go back and tell the people? Because if you're not being included in conversations, I mean, this looks like (inaudible) -- QUESTION: It looks like it's steps --

QUESTION: This is all figurehead stuff. What are you going to say today?

JOHNSON: I can tell you, that's not the case. I can tell you and I are meeting each other for the first time. There's going to be a serious conversation when I leave here. I tell you, when you see me tonight down there, I think you're going to get the tone of my conversation is going to change.

But I -- hold on. But I can also tell you this, in our anger, we have to make sure we don't burn down our own house, that we don't go down there and vandalize our own buildings.

We can stand on the sidewalk and talk about our issues. We can talk about what we want and what we need, and a conversation that needs to happen, and we can make that happen.

But what I don't want is this to go down and burn our own neighborhood. What point -- that does not prove a point. That does not solve an issue. That hurts this community, and that's what I don't want.

QUESTION: Can you clarify for us about --

QUESTION: -- (inaudible) and the thing about these people, these kids, with what's going on, and how do you have kids in the classroom about what's going on right now, when they're walking into the classroom, a different world right now, what do we (inaudible) --

JOHNSON: You know, you bring up a fine point. And we may need to talk to the school districts and offer them that we will come in. If I need to go to schools and talk to those kids and give them confidence and let them know that I'm just like their parents. I went to the same schools that they went to.

So if I need to go, so we will reach out to those school districts and those schools and superintendents and let them know if they need us to come by and speak to those young children, we will do that.

QUESTION: Can you clarify about the (inaudible) --

QUESTION: -- what this gentleman is saying is there appears to be -- with the release of the information and how the community is reacting. You're in charge of securing the community, keeping the peace. Other agencies are in charge of releasing the information.

Apparently the two sides have not met and have gotten together, coordinating that effort. Do you think this is something -- a conversation that's going to be had so that you're in the loop with the release of the information and react accordingly with the public?

JOHNSON: I guarantee you it's going to be a conversation. It's not going to be a conversation I'm going to have over the phone.

QUESTION: Can you clarify about the timing (inaudible) --

QUESTION: -- (inaudible) they were saying this is not a black and white issue, that this is about justice, that no matter the color of the officer that killed Michael Brown, they want justice.

I wanted to hear your thoughts about -- that they feel this is not a good communication between the police department and this community, that there's a lack of -- what do you feel about this?

JOHNSON: I agree that this is not a black and white issue because we all have sons and daughters, and we do need to communicate better, because you saw what communication did yesterday.

So we do need to communicate better, and we're going to do that. The governor talked about old wounds. This is an old wound, but it's time to stop saying it's an old wound and close it for good.

QUESTION: -- (inaudible) the county prosecutor and the county police, the release of this video link to that (inaudible) about the highway patrol (inaudible) --

JOHSON: This release came from the Ferguson police department and Chief Tom Jackson.

QUESTION: How do you want to make (inaudible) especially the black community, feel safe and protected around here again?

I mean, after many incidents, all across the United States, this was the biggest (inaudible) what are your exact actions to make black families feel safe?

JOHNSON: Because yesterday we saw what it should be. We saw what it could be. And we saw what it will be.

QUESTION: How do you feel about body cameras or police officers (inaudible) in the United States where the violence and the reports about officers that (inaudible) step over their power, decreased by 60 percent. Is that something that you push for (inaudible) that incident like that that the young boy loses his life --

JOHNSON: I believe in cameras. Every Missouri patrol car is equipped with a camera.

QUESTION: This was an incident that we still don't know what clearly happened. You try to investigate it. People still feel confused and they don't know what is happening and they're getting cynical, they're getting angry again.

You have to kind of break through the circle of violence. As you said, you want to have (inaudible) a safe community. There must be a step taken by the police department to make those people here feel safe. This is your first duty, to protect the people, and not to shut them down.

JOHNSON: I agree. Agencies are moving towards cameras. Whether they're body cameras or car cameras, I think cameras are important. Cameras are a part of law enforcement. We see them throughout the country.

Our job is our job, and I'm going to do my job the same way if I'm on the camera or not. So having a camera, it doesn't change the way I perform my job, from doing my job right.

Go ahead. Got to get down. Got to step down.

QUESTION: -- (inaudible) Brown, prior to him being killed, there's a lot of evidence coming out, before the shooting. Why is this not the same transparency when you talk about this man lost his life?

I'm the father of seven children. Not experienced in death. They don't know if they can expect the police to protect them. A young man lost his life. Let's not paint this a black and white issue. The issue about the police and the citizens of Ferguson. This is all over the world.

As a young man black, I'm a father. I'm scared to death for my children, to explain to my children. I take my little daughters, when I come home, and when they look at the TV and see the shooting, tear gas, into crowds with little baby, that bothers me as a parent, no matter what.

I have a question for you, sir, what are you going to do to make sure the people feel like they're being respected? This officer's name, we have this officer's name. (Inaudible).

There's photographs on social media of a young man laying dead on in the street. We are coming to you guys, the police, the authority, the investigators, to ask us to give us some sense of protection, as young black men in America, to know they will serve us, not just protect but serve us.

So when I go home today, my young son, his friend's funeral, I can explain to him, that we believe in the police. We pay our tax dollar to. They're going to do the best they can to protect you, that there's someone there to protect them. That is the bottom line.

What a lot of these young black folks -- I have a barber shop in St. Louis. I see a lot of these young men. They are worried this thing is going to go way over just Mike Brown. They're tired. They've been oppressed for so long. This situation has been put on the back burner for so long.

What can we do today to ensure these young folks that there's someone that will protect you, police, military, whoever?

JOHNSON: I can tell you, we have outstanding law enforcement officers in our state, both black and white, male and female. Are we perfect? No, we're not.

I tell you what, I wake up each day. I've got a son. I've got a daughter. I want them to be able to walk these streets with safety. I talk about our intent is to make this state safe. Our intent is to stand strong and protect all our citizens. Our intent means nothing. If those are your feelings, that means we need to do a better job. I can tell you today, whenever we walk away from this and these cameras are gone, this is our opportunity to show you that you can trust us. It shows you that if I do something wrong, that another police officer will come up and say, you're wrong, and we need something different, OK?

And I told you earlier today I thought that information could have been given out in a different way. I could have said it was perfect. I could have said, you know what, I would have done it the same way. I'm not telling you that.

We're going to have some conversation to make sure we're perfect. The highway patrolmen that are here are outstanding police officers. St. Louis county is an outstanding police department. If I had an issue with my own home, I'm not going to call the highway patrol. I'm going to call St. Louis County because I trust them.

We know this isn't a perfect world. You say you have a barber shop. Every barber isn't good. There's some bad barbers. That's kind of the way of the world.

When you go home and you see your kids tonight, when I got home last night, my daughter said this, Daddy, were you scared? I said, just a little bit.

And she said, Daddy, I want you to remember when Jesus asked Peter to walk with him on the water, when Peter got scared, Jesus picked him up and said, have the faith.

And I'm telling you today, we need to be just like Peter, because I know we're scared, and I know we've fallen. He's going to pick us up and he's going to pick this community up.

I can't hear you.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) we're also seeing threats on social media of riots tonight even into the city of St. Louis. What's the plan security wise tonight to make sure it doesn't get out of hand?

JOHNSON: You're telling me what social media's telling you. I'm going to see what the people tell me.

Excuse me?

QUESTION: Have you noticed a change in the protesters' mood since these pictures were released this morning?

JOHNSON: Yes, I have.

It's unclear. It's unclear. We need to state the facts.

I can tell you it's changed a mind or two since that's been released.

GOVERNOR JAY NIXON (D), MISSOURI: A couple quick questions, yeah. First of all, I think it's important to note the specific responsibility that the highway patrol on the ground by Captain Johnson have, and they're doing, I think, an outstanding job and will continue being here in the community, doing that.

I also say that nothing should deter figuring out how and why Michael Brown was killed. That is not the task with which the colonel was given. But there's a lot of steps between now and when justice is served, and there are going to be a lot of other bounces along the way, and they'll be a lot of tension at various times.

I think we need -- you've got parallel processes going on there. You've got this local one and a Department of Justice. Those need to be accurate, they need to be clear, they need to be thorough, and before conclusions are reached, they need to be complete.

And I know there's been -- I've said certain things should have come out sooner rather than they did later -- sooner. But that's not the point.