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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Attorney General Meets With Brown Family; Officer Suspended After Threatening Protesters With Rifle
Aired August 20, 2014 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, breaking news, another police officer in Ferguson under fire tonight. We're going to show you the video that just got him suspended.
Plus new evidence from the Michael Brown shooting raising questions tonight about the moments just before his death.
And breaking news on the brutal beheading of the American at the hands of ISIS. Late word tonight that the United States attempted a rescue mission this summer. It is an extraordinary development in the story. We have all the details. Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, we begin with the breaking news in Ferguson. The nation's top law enforcement official is on the ground in Ferguson, Missouri, Attorney General Eric Holder tonight meeting with the parents of Michael Brown.
The unarmed black teen shot dead by a white police officer 11 days ago. You're looking at pictures of Ferguson tonight. Just moments ago, protesters beginning to gather just again preparing for another possible brutal encounter with police.
And tonight we have new video of a face-off between a police officer and protesters. And I want to play it for you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My hands are up. My hands are up. You're going to kill him. Get back. What's your name, sir? Go (inaudible) yourself. Your name's go (inaudible) yourself? Hello officer go (inaudible) yourself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: We have late breaking details on what's happened to that police officer in just a moment. And another major development, a grand jury began hearing evidence in the case today. Jurors who, of course, have seen wall-to-wall media coverage of the shooting and protests possibly.
Stephanie Elam is in Ferguson tonight. Stephanie, I want to start with this video of the officer threatening to expletive kill protesters. What do you know about what happened to him? STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This was just around midnight. It was a very tense situation out on the street. We were out here at the time when that happened. What we do know now is that the St. Louis County Police Department has come out.
They said that he has been suspended, relieved of his duties, suspended indefinitely. They said this does not reflect how they believe that their police officers should act.
The video, when you take a look at it, Erin -- it's very clear. I should also note while I was out here last night, I saw another officer raise his weapon. People out here also yelling for him to bring his weapon down and another officer stepping in to make that happen.
Same thing as you see in this video here where an officer stepped in and had this police officer in question lower his weapon -- Erin.
BURNETT: That's pretty incredible. You saw this happening again. This obviously being caught on tape caused this officer to, as you say, be indefinitely suspended.
But interesting that you are saying, you saw, maybe not with the expletives, but you saw this happening nearby. What's the feeling of where you are of whether these kinds of things are going to happen again tonight?
ELAM: It feels very different today. I'll already tell you that, Erin. There's a lot less people out here at this hour than there were yesterday. You can look up and down the street even getting in here.
For us we got rerouted about three different times because we kept getting sent away from one point where we could enter here to another. So it's hard for people to get in here for one thing. But the tension, you could feel it last night when that situation was happening.
To the credit of the police officers around the officer I saw, they told him to lower his weapon. At the same time when things got tense on the community side, I saw people from the community, just regular everyday people running out to sort of create a barrier between the police and where the protesters were standing saying we're not going to get into this, we're not going to have this violence tonight.
So a lot more people being proactive about trying to keep the situation calm here. Obviously the sun is still up. We've seen these agitations flare up into the evening. So we'll be out here and see how it goes. Right now it feels like a very different scene -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Stephanie. The question is whether Attorney General Eric Holder's visit will help. David Mattingly is on the ground in Ferguson tonight.
David, we know that Holder is having a meeting with the Brown family. What more can you tell us? DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That meeting with the Brown parents is private. It is not in front of the cameras. It is behind closed doors, but it punctuates what has been a day-long list of meetings and appearances and high-level meetings here in Ferguson to address the unrest.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Attorney General Eric Holder's extraordinary public tour aims to build public trust in the investigation of a bitter and divisive case. Many believe the turmoil gripping Ferguson, Missouri, demands clear and prompt answers.
Is the police killing of Michael Brown a case of an officer defending himself in fear of his life or the senseless murder of an unarmed teenager? Managing expectations may prove as difficult as managing the nightly crowds of protesters.
In an open letter published Tuesday, Holder asked for the public's cooperation and patience. Missouri Civil Rights Attorney Stephen Ryals suggests Holder will need it when looking into patterns of practices at the Ferguson PD.
(on camera): When the attorney general is looking at this one police department, he's looking at how they do business.
STEPHEN RYALS, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Yes.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): He's looking not just at the chief that's in charge now but previous administrations?
RYALS: Of course, because in a police department the culture goes across generations even.
MATTINGLY: A Justice Department civil rights investigation could take year. In Ferguson, even the local grand jury process of determining what charges, if any, to file against Police Officer Darren Wilson could push into October.
ROBERT MCCULLOCH, ST. LOUIS COUNTY PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Keep in mind there's still a lot of forensic examinations going on, and we're not going to present partial parts of that. We'll do it as it's completed.
MATTINGLY: Under normal circumstances, a prosecutor feeds information to a grand jury, but in this case perceptions formed during ten days of violent unrest could make jurors more opinionated.
(on camera): And possibly predisposed to a particular charge?
JUSTIN HANSFORD, ST. LOUIS UNIVERSITY LAW PROFESSOR: Possibly predisposed to a particular charge. That does make it difficult for the prosecutor to truly create a fair and impartial process.
(END VIDEOTAPE) MATTINGLY: When you look at the recent history of the Justice Department looking at local police departments, the investigation in New Orleans took five years, the investigation launched after the death of Trayvon Martin is still ongoing -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much. We're going to be joined by Trayvon Martin's father to talk about that later this hour. Joining me now though is CNN's Van Jones, former member of the Obama administration and Neil Bruntrager, the general counsel for the St. Louis Police Officers Association.
Neil, I want to begin with you. You represent the officer in the video we played a moment, who had his gun pointing at protesters. For anyone who just turned the channel right now to watch us, I want to play the video again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My hands are up. My hands are up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will (inaudible) kill you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: You know, he said I will -- kill you. What was he thinking?
NEIL BRUNTRAGER, GENERAL COUNSEL, ST. LOUIS POLICE OFFICERS ASSOCIATION: Look, this is called fatigue. These people are human. My hero, other than my father is Atticus Finch. He makes the statement in the book "To Kill a Mockingbird." He makes the statement that says, "You never really understand another person until you see the world from his point of view, until you put his skin on and you walk around in it for a little while."
This has been going on for ten days. This is a situation where these police men are put in the line and people are provoking them. They're using the worst invectives. They're calling them names. They're doing everything they can do to provoke a response from these police officers.
And in this instance -- now, by the way, Erin, I don't represent this particular police officer. But what happens in a situation like this, is that a person is human. They respond and that's what you saw. It's unfortunate. It's unpleasant. But it's a human response.
We can't expect these men and these women to be out there day in, day out, all these hours that they're out there and not respond. Fortunately no one was hurt.
BURNETT: Right, and my apologies. I was under the impression you were representing him specifically, but again, you represent the St. Louis Police Officers Association.
BRUNTRAGER: Yes, ma'am.
BURNETT: Let me ask you, though, because this is a time where you rely on your law enforcement to be under pressure, to be under duress, be under fatigue, take the high road and do the right thing. Even officers around him try to pull him back and say stop. It seems like this guy, what, was he -- was it a training issue? He should have taken the high road, shouldn't he?
BRUNTRAGER: Sure, of course. It's not a training issue. These people are very well trained. It's a fatigue issue. You have to understand the environment we're in right here. It's a very, very difficult place to be.
VAN JONES, CNN CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": No. Well, first of all, it is completely inaccurate to pretend like this is something that just happened this one time, this one officer after ten days he got tired. This has been going on since the very first day.
Part of the problem is if this officer is justifiably suspended probably a third of the police force and a lot of National Guard should also be suspended. We've heard from the very first day this particular allegation, which I've never heard before in seeing protests for 20 years of police officers leveling weapons at crowds.
That is not supposed to happen. The very first minute of the very first hour of the very first day when you are taking a gun safety class, the first thing they say is do not point a weapon at a person unless you plan to shoot them.
So literally, you have an entire police force that has been doing this not one officer tonight, for almost ten days. And the reason that people are so upset is because people have been saying over and over, they were pointing guns at us.
Finally now there's some videotape evidence that we can get to it. But it's completely unfair to the people who have been out there for day after day to pretend it is one time and about fatigue. This is a training issue, this is an issue of harassment of this community.
BURNETT: Let me just ask you, Neil, because our reporter, Stephanie Elam just said actually she experienced this -- it wasn't filmed, but she did experience it with another police officer who leveled his weapon where she was last night. So it doesn't appear to be isolated.
BRUNTRAGER: I'm confident that there are incidents that are happening out there. What I'm saying to you simply is that this is a situation where they've been doing it for ten days. They're human beings, Erin. They're going to make mistakes.
Fortunately, they have support. They have other people there who are causing those who are having these issues to stand down. Now it's not pleasant, but the flip side of this is you're asking them to stand there and stare into the faces of people who are spitting on them, who are yelling at them, who are screaming at them, who are points their nose, who are touching them.
You're saying just take it and they do, by and large, they do. There are isolated incidents where I'm sure it has occurred, but you can't blanketly indict these people for this. This is a situation where they are human beings, understand what they're going through.
BURNETT: Van, what about this issue with taunting? You heard the person in the video say, all right, Mr. F-U. There was mouthing off going on, on the other side.
BRUNTRAGER: Yes, there is no question.
JONES: Well, first of all, let me say a couple of things. You know, my father was a cop in the military. I'm from a law enforcement family. My uncle just retired from Memphis City Police Department. I respect what law enforcement goes through and, you're right, they are human.
But that is also why when you have these kinds of allegations and concerns happening day one, not day 10, not day 11, there needs to be a response. When elderly people said they were pointing guns at me, where church leaders said they're pointing guns at me, there was no response from the top.
Ten days ago saying, this is our protocol. We do not level guns at people and therefore it's been happening and happening. Finally it's got to the point that we're talking about it with video.
I think it's completely unfair to pretend that police have shown the kind of restraint that you would have expected. I've been a part of politics for 20 years. I've never seen this kind of a harassment of peaceful protesting crowd.
BRUNTRAGER: I think the restraint has been admirable.
BURNETT: All right, thanks very much to both of you. And next, new video of the Michael Brown shooting. Obviously that is a significant development. Was the teen moving toward the officer when he was shot?
Plus a man with an important message for the Brown family. Trayvon Martin's father is OUTFRONT.
And a major development in the brutal beheading of an American by ISIS. We have late breaking news tonight that the United States attempted to rescue him with boots on the ground this summer.
BURNETT: Breaking news out of Ferguson, Missouri, tonight. We want to show you pictures of just moments ago of crowds gathering in Ferguson yet again tonight as police brace themselves for what could be another violent night.
For days, the protests have spiraled out of control as crowds grow, throwing rocks, bottles, Molotov cocktail. And today, the grand jury finally convened for the first time. The prosecutor says it could take, get this, until October for jurors to see all the evidence and make decision on a charge. Can you imagine?
Tonight we're getting key video from a key person in the case. And Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Seconds after Michael Brown was shot, witnesses from three different angles recording with wildly different accounts of that critical moment. From this recording audio from an unseen nearby man who says he saw Brown moving towards the officer. But Brown did not run toward the officers say two women who recorded from these two other angles.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He turned around, faces the officer and puts his lands up and the officer continues to shoot him until he goes down to the ground.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: While he was running away from the officer he was getting shot at.
LAH: Who is telling the truth? Maybe everyone or at least they believe they are.
ELIZABETH LOFTUS COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGIST: Just because somebody tells you something with a lot of detail, just because they say it with confidence, just because they express it with emotion, it doesn't mean that it really happened that day.
LAH: Cognitive psychologist Elizabeth Loftus says she's testified in 300 cases since 1975 and says over and over again eyewitnesses are often wrong. The Trayvon Martin case, one witness saw a black man with a hoodie on top of a white man, while another witness recalls a man with a white shirt on top of another.
The 2002 D.C. sniper shootings, multiple witnesses described a white van or box truck. Police shut down free ways to frisk scores of van drivers, but the real car used, a blue Chevy four-door sedan.
The 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, Loftus testified in the criminal case and says a key eyewitness rented Timothy McVeigh the Ryder truck used to carry the bombs in that attack.
LOFTUS: That Ryder truck employee remembered this McVeigh was with another person and there was now a mad hunt for John Doe number two but there was nobody with McVeigh the day he rented that Ryder truck.
LAH: That witness was not intentionally lying, says Loftus. Memory is flawed and affected by stress. When eyewitnesses become courtroom witnesses, flawed testimony leads to bigger problems.
LOFTUS: The major cause of wrongful convictions is faulty eyewitness testimony. That's the major cause. And it's responsible when maybe about three-quarters of the cases.
LAH: As time grows from the shooting, witnesses might unknowingly shape and adopt their own memories of what happened based on what they see and hear in the media. Truth often only found in the evidence recovered. Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.
BURNETT: Pretty incredible report by Kyung.
OUTFRONT now, criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor Paul Callan and civil rights attorney Natalie Jackson who served as counsel for the Trayvon Martin family.
And Natalie, I want t start with you tonight. You just heard Kyung's reporting. How can we trust that eyewitness testimony in this case, which is Kyung pointed out, is already contradicting itself between witnesses, how can you know what's reliable?
NATALIE JACKSON, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, I will tell you, the video that you just showed I don't think that's reliable. I think that that's a video of someone with totally different clothes on than Mike Brown. And that's the problem when you have all these different accounts and you have media influencing also the jury. So you know, it becomes a problem. And I agree that witness recollection, but that's one of the reasons that you get the witnesses immediately.
BURNETT: So let me just try to understand what you're saying. You're saying that the eyewitness that said Mike Brown was charging was not looking at Mike Brown?
JACKSON: I'm saying -- I looked at the video that you just showed and that was not Mike Brown. Mike Brown has a white t-shirt and he's laying on the ground. That was I saw -- I saw that. That was someone coming to his aid.
BURNETT: All right, I'm not sure I totally understand. But I understand your point that you're making.
So Paul, let me give you the chance to respond to that. As a former prosecutor, current defense attorney, do you trust eyewitness testimony which regardless of which video they were taking, you now have in the example our reporter just showed three different accounts which contradict each other of people who all say they were there.
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it depends on the eyewitness testimony. All of the experts say that there are inherent problems with eyewitness testimony. And so the reliability of it, juries want to see other physical evidence such as the autopsy, forensics that corroborate eyewitness testimony because it tends to be unreliable.
BURNETT: So Natalie, attorney general Eric Holder who is in Ferguson today, met with Mike Brown's family. He said, quote "hundreds of people have already been interviewed in connection with this matter. One thing that we know is there's going to be different versions of what happened." So how are you going to know who's right and who's wrong?
JACKSON: I agree with Paul. You're going to have to take into consideration all the evidence and here we have, you know -- as long as a witness' statement does not conflict with the evidence, then that witness statement should be put on and presented to a jury or a grand jury in this instance.
CALLAN: I think Natalie and I will agree, though, on one thing. You know, the local law enforcement people have totally lost control of this case. And I'm telling you the case is falling apart right before your eyes because --
BURNETT: We've seen these eyewitnesses. They've appeared on CNN. They have appeared in other places telling their stories. They are now going to have to tell them again to a grand jury. So I would imagine what's going to start to happen is there's going to be differences between what a person said a week ago and what they say in two weeks, not intentionally lying but there will be difference there.
CALLAN: When I was putting together a murder case, the most important thing is keeping control of your witness. One statement is made before the grand jury. These witnesses are on television station a, b and c, now we have three different transcripts of testimony, then they testify in the grand jury, then they talk to the FBI. We're going to have about ten different versions of this. And even a witness telling the truth is going to contradict themselves to build in reasonable doubt. I've come up probably with seven or eight discrepancies in eyewitness testimony already that can be used to destroy them on the witness stand. Critical issues.
BURNETT: Natalie, go ahead.
JACKSON: I've come up with witness statements that are collaborative with the autopsy that was put out. But I will say again that these are witnesses that were not interviewed by Ferguson police. That's important that Ferguson police did not interview them. So they came on television.
These people have a deep distrust of the police. If you see a police officer who you believe shot someone in the middle of the street, are you going to go to the police and tell them? That is a problem when we have a breakdown between police and between citizens.
Once again, this problem is much larger. That's why we need mandatory dash cams and body cams on every police officer in the United States.
CALLAN: That may be a great idea, but if you want to convict somebody of committing a crime, you've got to put together a strong case. And I'm telling you by letting these witnesses testify on television, by not interviewing them on a timely basis, this case has probably been fatally damaged already and we're right at the beginning of the case. So to see the case destroyed by amateur preparation, you know, I just think it's a disgrace.
JACKSON: I think that it's a disgrace on the police, not on the witnesses. Once again, why do we need mandatory dash cams. I don't blame the people who are afraid of the police in this instance. This is a problem with a breakdown of trust with the citizens and the police. We've seen it over and over again in Ferguson.
CALLAN: Well, you know, Natalie, I'm not criticizing the witnesses here. You should have a prosecutor in place who has spoken to the witnesses and said to them that your testimony will be reviewed, it will be honored and to get them under control and before a grand jury as quickly as possible but of course we're not seeing that happen in this case.
BURNETT: And Natalie, on that note, I want to give this question to you. The grand jury convened today. The prosecutor whom I know, you know, you feel should recuse himself. His father was shot by a black man.
JACKSON: That's not why I feel he should.
BURNETT: Fair point. I just want our viewers to know that's what a lot of viewers are pointing to that particular issue. But he says he is going to stay in place. He has said today, though Natalie, he is not going to have all the evidence most likely presented to the grand jury until maybe mid-October. Is that acceptable that it could take that long to decide whether there's a charge in here?
JACKSON: Well, this is why I thought he should recuse himself because even if it is acceptable, people will question it because it's him. And that's why he should recuse himself. If there's even an appearance of bias or an appearance of favoritism such as you know people in the police department, you worked with them, you've done these. You haven't convicted an officer yet and you have grand juries, those are the problems.
BURNETT: Paul, do you think it's acceptable that we might not have a charge until October?
CALLAN: Well, it's typical in police investigations that it would take a long time. But let me tell you. And you know, I've looked at cases in New York, sometimes they take six months because the investigations are so thorough. FBI you have 40 agents in the field taking statements. I bet it is not done by October. And you know something else, Eric Holder has come in. He has done a separate autopsy. He has got his own team in the field. He may as well take over the case now. What is he waiting for? I mean, he doesn't trust the locals; he might as well finish the job.
JACKSON: This is not a complicated case, though. It doesn't have a lot of computer --
CALLAN: It's gotten complicated now as a result of the way it's been handled now, Natalie.
JACKSON: It's not that complicated, Paul, no matter what.
CALLAN: You would think it was complicated if you were charged with murder, I think.
JACKSON: I want it done thoroughly and I want due process.
CALLAN: So we both agree. We both agree.
BURNETT: We will end on a note of agreement between the two of you. Thanks as always to both of you.
And next, more protesters gathering in Ferguson now objecting to the prosecutor in the case, should he step down?
Plus a man still seeking justice for his son. Tracy Martin, Trayvon's dad is our guest next.
And breaking news from the Pentagon tonight, a stunning development. It turns the out the United States launched a manned operation boots on the ground to try to save James Foley, the American who was beheaded by ISIS. We will be right back.
BURNETT: Breaking news on the growing unrest over the death of Mike Brown. We want to show you live pictures of protesters marching in Ferguson, Missouri. These actually were just taken moments ago, let me be clear.
At this hour crowds are gathering to march to the office of the prosecutor handling the case. Critics say he cannot be impartial because his father was killed on the job by a black man.
Now, there's another major development tonight. The grand jury convened for the first time today. And the attorney general of the United States is now involved. Eric Holder is in Ferguson tonight. He's going to have a private meeting with Michael Brown's family. This actually was expected to all be finished by now, but it is still going on. Obviously important that it's being extended.
Officials are bracing for more violent protests tonight over Mike Brown and there was another major confrontation last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My hands are up, bro. My hands are up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hands up.
UNDENTIFIED MALE: I'll (EXPLETIVE DELETED) kill you. Get back!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Officials say a St. Louis County police officer is now suspended indefinitely after pointing that assault rifle at a protester and threatening as you can see by saying, I'll F-ing kill you.
Our justice correspondent Evan Perez is in Ferguson. He's been following the attorney general's visit today.
In the backdrop of all that happening and our reporters, Evan, as you know, saying that was not an isolated incident. They saw other officers, another officer pointing a gun. Our Stephanie Elam said she experienced that.
What can you tell us about attorney general holder's meeting with Mike Brown's parents today?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, we know that his visit is just about wrapping up here in the Ferguson area, in the St. Louis area. We know he met in the past hour or so with the parents of Michael Brown. We don't know a lot of details about it, frankly, because it was a closed meeting. He wanted to make sure that this was a private meeting.
You know, one of the things he was trying to do was reassure them that justice was going to be done on the part of their son, and also, frankly, to send a message that it might take some time for the investigations to get going, but also he wanted to show that they're really going to make sure that everything -- everybody is listened to.
He also was talking to the young people here, frankly. The first thing he did this morning was to meet with a group of students at a community college and tell them his own stories as a black man, he was a young prosecutor in Washington, where he was stopped by police for apparently no reason and he wanted to tell them he knew how they felt, Erin.
It's interesting that he's sharing this personal story.
Evan, thank you very much.
Well, as Michael Brown's parents prepare to bury their son on Monday, that's when the funeral will be, Trayvon Martin's family maybe one of the only families in this country that can understand their pain and certainly the only one that can understand the public scrutiny and focus on their own agony.
Trayvon Martin, another unarmed black teen, was shot and killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman in February of 2012. Trayvon's father, Tracy Martin, is OUTFRONT.
Tracy, this has got to open up wounds that haven't even healed for you. When you see what's happening in Ferguson, what do you think?
TRACY MARTIN, TRAYVON MARTIN'S FATHER: First, you know, it takes me back to February 26, 2012, and I start to relive it all over again. I know what this family is going through. I know that this family is agonizing. I know that their pain is tremendous. I know that their hearts are heavy. Their hearts are hurting.
But we as a family, we as a community, we just want the family to know that we're here with them. We'll mourn with them. We'll stand with them. And we're here for them. BURNETT: The attorney general, Eric Holder, as you know, we were
just reporting, finishing up a meeting with Michael Brown's family at this moment. Do you think that the attorney general's going to make a difference? I mean, do you think he made a difference in your son's case?
MARTIN: Well, you know, our case is still -- has yet to play out fully. I think he can make a difference. And just by showing that he's interested, that he's there with the family, him having the meeting with the family, that will give them a sense of security, a sense of trust in the justice system.
BURNETT: Tracy, I'm curious because it's ongoing -- and for our viewers -- I mean, that -- the reality of that they may think the case is over. It's not over because the Justice Department, Eric Holder, has a civil rights investigation into Trayvon's killing in 2012.
But there have been no charges filed on the civil rights basis against George Zimmerman. The investigation is still ongoing.
Are you frustrated? Do you think they've been dragging their feet? Are you frustrated that there's all this focus on Ferguson, that they're visiting Ferguson, and that didn't happen for you?
MARTIN: No, I'm not frustrated about it at all. I think that they need to visit Ferguson. I think that the attention right now needs to be in Ferguson and our case will play out sooner or later, but right now, the main focus for this country should be on Mike Brown, the slaying of Mike Brown, and they shouldn't -- we shouldn't be focused on anything else right now.
BURNETT: Do you think -- there's been, you know, focus on, for example, that the police department released video of Mike Brown allegedly robbing a convenience store the same day they released the name of the police officer who shot him. Some have said that that was purposeful, or at the least that that was done to hurt the character, to character assassinate Mike Brown. What do you think?
MARTIN: I think it was done intentionally. I don't think that that was a mistake. And I know far too well that things are done intentionally to assassinate the character of slain little black and Brown kids all across this country, particularly in our case and in this situation here.
I don't think that that tape should have been leaked or released on the same day that they were releasing the officer's name.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Tracy, thank you very much. We appreciate your coming on to talk about this.
MARTIN: Thank you.
BURNETT: Tracy is Trayvon's father.
Now OUTFRONT next, the breaking news: we're just getting word that the United States attempted to rescue the American journalist who was beheaded by ISIS. This is an extraordinary development. And we don't use that word lightly. That's how our Barbara Starr is describing it. We've got the breaking news next.
Plus, why a former American hostage says the United States has it all wrong when it comes to this situation. He joins us next.
BURNETT: Breaking news. We just learned American Special Forces attempted to rescue American hostages held by the terror group ISIS. Among them was journalist James Foley. That gruesome beheading was videotaped by ISIS yesterday. The mission was authorized by President Obama, but the hostages weren't at the target location when the Special Forces arrived.
Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon.
Barbara, you described this development as extraordinary.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely extraordinary, Erin. Good evening.
One of the most dangerous missions U.S. commandos have undertaken in years by any measure. It was earlier this summer. It was several dozen of the most elite commandos from groups like SEAL Team Six and Delta Force. They went into Syria by helicopter. They were protected overhead by fighter jets and surveillance aircraft right into what, by any measure, is enemy territory.
They had intelligence. They believe the hostages were at a particular location being held by a particular group of ISIS militants. No one in the government is yet saying where the location is, that information apparently still quite sensitive. But when they landed, they found that the hostages indeed were not there at the time.
A firefight broke out, several ISIS militants killed, we are told, killed. All U.S. troops were fine. One member was slightly wounded. So, we had one wounded in action, no killed.
But for them to go into Syria which certainly has all over that country, heavy militarized presence, whether it's ISIS, the regime, other militant groups, al Qaeda factions, rebels -- I mean, all over that country. There is no place that is safe for American commandos.
If they had been discovered, it would have been very grim. There would have been a serious firefight to get out of this, but apparently everybody got out OK. They just didn't find the hostages -- Erin.
BURNETT: They didn't find them and, of course, there was that horrific video last night. And there is one other American still in the hands of ISIS terrorists tonight. His name is Steven Sotloff. He was shown in the same video where James Foley was beheaded.
Militants are threatening to behead Sotloff, too. You can see him there, dressed on those Guantanamo Bay-like clothes. They said they would behead him if the United States did not stop airstrikes in Iraq.
Here they are.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any attempt by you, Obama, to deny the Muslims their rights of living in safety under the Islamic caliphate will result in the bloodshed of your people.
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BURNETT: David Rohde is another American who was held by a terror group. He was a reporter for "The New York Times" when the Taliban took him hostage for more than seven months. In 2008, he escaped thanks to the help of a local journalist.
David Rohde is OUTFRONT.
Good to have you with us.
This situation we're seeing tonight, this is a situation where the United States mounted, it turns out, as Barbara's reporting, several dozen special forces risked their lives, went in to try to find to save these guys. They weren't there. We now ended up with them losing their life.
The other way to possibly save those American lives and others would be to pay ransom. That is something European countries do every single day. The United States does not.
DAVID ROHDE, KIDNAPPED BY TALIBAN IN 2008: I don't think the United States should. I think the broader problem is that there is no coherent strategy between the U.S. and Europe about what to do about this problem. Kidnappings are working. Al Qaeda affiliates have raised at least $125 million from kidnappings in the last five years.
They raised $60 million alone last year. France denies it, Germany, Spain, other countries , they pay ransoms. There were journalists held from France and Spain, who were held with Foley by the Islamic State, ransoms were paid for them. They're home safe now. Jim Foley is dead.
BURNETT: Jim Foley is dead. Now, I guess my question to you would be, would a ransom -- I know you're saying you don't advocate it, but the Europeans pay it and they got out safely. If the United States had paid a ransom for James Foley, would he have been released, though? Or is this an issue of he was an American, and if you're American they'll take your ransom and then still behead you?
ROHDE: I think every case is different. And I think every -- in the end, the family of the captives should decide what they want to do, do they want a rescue operation, do they want to try to pay a ransom privately. There are cases, though, where families and organizations, there are oil workers that get kidnapped in different parts of the world, and the companies pay smaller ransoms. The problem with these government ransoms is that they're millions of dollars, far more than any --
BURNETT: You said $10 million for an individual has been paid.
ROHDE: Ten million dollars, the largest reported cases in "The New York Times" was four hostages that were French, that was $40 million, $10 million each paid to free them. That is the record, and that creates an incentive, I agree with you.
BURNETT: So, what do you think will happen to Steven Sotloff? That is the "TIME" journalist. He was freelancing. He was on assignment for "TIME" magazine, being held with James Foley. He watched James Foley beheaded in this video. And they said, you're next if America doesn't stop airstrikes. America had airstrikes in Iraq today.
Do you think -- what will happen here?
ROHDE: I feel terrible for him. He's in an impossible situation. And I think it's a very grim plight for him. I think, you know, you have to continue these airstrikes. The U.S. government can't let a terrorist organization decide its foreign policy. But you know, I'm lucky to survive. I was in the same situation.
I feel horrific for him, but it is a very grim situation for him.
BURNETT: Your op-ed that you wrote today was how the United States failed James Foley. Do you feel differently now that you're hearing that the United States risked dozens of Special Forces' lives to try to rescue him?
ROHDE: I wrote it before I heard about the raid. I think the raid helps. And the real tenor of piece was how the United States and Europe together failed Jim Foley. Again, six Europeans get a ransom, they're freed. Jim Foley is not.
This inconsistent approach, this lack of a strategy isn't working. Kidnapping is spreading. The United States needs to talk about this. The Europeans need to admit they pay these ransoms and this needs to come out of the shadows.
BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to you, David Rohde. And, of course, to read his op-ed, a fascinating op-ed with an incredible set of numbers in terms of how much these ransoms are.
OUTFRONT next, we're going to go to Don Lemon. He has a live ride along with the state police captain, Ron Johnson, live in Ferguson. You see Don there. We'll back with this live interview.
BURNETT: Breaking news on our stop story tonight: police bracing for another night of violence in Ferguson, Missouri. Don Lemon is on a ride along with the police captain Ron Johnson, the man who is -- the one tasked with dealing with this crisis. Don, take it away.
CAPT. RON JOHNSON, MISSOURI HIGHWAY PATROL: This is our protest lot --
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Erin. This is the Captain Ron Johnson. He's been out showing us around. This is usually when it's a pretty busy time and we're on this main drag. We're actually at West Florissant and Ferguson, where the big uproar happened two nights ago.
Not that many people out, it seems to be under control. What did you do right since two days ago?
JOHNSON: I think that first the community did some things right. The clergy and elders and activists came out and didn't allow agitators and criminals to mask themselves within the group and so, they were pointing them out to us. They were helping us. They were moving away from 'em and not having the same activities. So, really, the community did it.
LEMON: So, you feel good about it so far?
JOHNSON: I really feel good about it. I felt good about yesterday. And I feel good. People are out here talking, still being able to protest. So, yes, I feel good.
LEMON: Can I ask you something that caused controversy today? On Tuesday, there was an incident with a St. Ann police officer pointing a semiautomatic weapon loaded at a peaceful protester saying, I will F-ing kill you and when they asked him name, he said -- I forget when he said but he used an expletive, as well.
He's been relieved of duties. He's on extended leave, indefinite leave. What do you make of that? Indefinite suspension.
JOHNSON: Well, that part I'm not aware of. I do know that we have removed him from this assignment. We did contact his department and told them of his behavior and that was until tolerated here and he needed to be removed from this assignment.
LEMON: Yes. When you saw that video, what did you think?
JOHNSON: I was disturbed by it. I was bothered it and I was disrespected by it. And the men and women who have been out here for over a week were all disrespected by those comments.
LEMON: You got to meet with the Attorney General Eric Holder today.
JOHNSON: Yes, I did.
LEMON: What was that meeting like? What did you discuss, if you can talk about it?
JOHNSON: He was very honored (ph). He just -- I reached to shake his hand and he opened and embraced me. And his comments were, this is what policing is about, is what's going on in Ferguson, with you and the men and women that are serving as citizens of Ferguson. He applauded the colonel of the highway patrol for his leadership and the partnership that's been established here.
LEMON: You close off -- we're coming up on the QT that was burned down and people were meeting. Why did you close it off in the short time? We only have a few seconds left.
JOHNSON: I closed it off to preserve it and hopefully will show a QuikTrip the business needs to be maintained here. I didn't want further damage to come there and also, it became unsafe for some peaceful protesters.
LEMON: And we're going -- that's the QuikTrip right now and since then, it has been gated off. You can see it's still burned out. Obviously, and they want to get it back out.
We were here a little bit earlier, Erin, and we walked out. I walked out with the captain and people were meeting with him, thanking him for closing this down. And one lady said -- do you remember what the lady said? She said, this is the first -- I've lived here all my life. And what did she say, this is what?
JOHNSON: She said I lived here all my life and this is the first time that I felt safe.
LEMON: What do you think of that?
JOHNSON: Amazing. And I'm glad I could be part of that, but on the same turn, it's pretty sad.
LEMON: Tonight, we'll be fine, safe?
JOHNSON: Tonight, we will do everything we can to make this a safe place for the protesters and also those in their homes.
LEMON: All right. Thank you very much, captain. We appreciate it.
So, Erin, we've been out with the captain this evening riding around, checking on the hot spots and so far, so good and everyone here is hoping it remains that way.
Back to you.
BURNETT: All right. Don, we're going to have much more. Don will be live from Ferguson, that's tonight at 10:00. But you just heard the man in charge talking about that video where the police officer was pointing his gun at protesters, swearing, saying it will f-ing kill you. He said, when he saw that video, he felt disturbed, he felt bothered, and he felt disrespected by that officer who's been put on leave.
We'll be right back.
BURNETT: Tomorrow OUTFRONT: an exclusive investigation on the militarization of the police in America. OUTFRONT was given access to one county's police department to find out why weapons meant for the battlefield are in the hands of police officers.
Anderson starts now.