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Feds Investigate Brown Family Church Fire; Darren Wilson Still With Ferguson PD; Possible Missteps in Ferguson Investigation; Protests Growing in Los Angeles, 183 Arrested; Official: Assault Rifle Missing From St. Louis Police Car

Aired November 26, 2014 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news. Federal investigators are looking at whether arsonists targeted Michael Brown's father's church, setting it on fire. And we are just learning now that Officer Darren Wilson is still with the Ferguson Police Department.

That's tonight. Plus newly released evidence revealing the medical examiner did not take photos of the crime scene. Police did not record and didn't even take notes during Officer Wilson's first interview. Can we ever know the truth?

And hundreds of flights cancelled, huge traffic delays, 30 million people in the path of a crippling winter storm for Thanksgiving.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight we begin with the breaking news. The ATF is investigating the fire that destroyed -- the Flood Christian Church in Ferguson. They said that arsonists may have targeted that church because Michael Brown's father is connected to the church.

This as the mayor of Ferguson tells CNN that Darren Wilson is still with the police department there. He has not worked out any resignation.


MAYOR JAMES KNOWLES, FERGUSON: Obviously we're waiting to hear if he's going to make a decision like that, that's something that we don't know at this point. Nothing has really changed. Again, he still remains a Ferguson police officer. He is on administrative leave. It is a personnel matter and at this point, we can't really discuss that any further.


BURNETT: Well, the unrest continues today. Three hundred protesters in St. Louis staged a mock trial for Officer Darren Wilson then stormed city hall, fighting with police, chanting, "shame, shame."

The demonstrations aren't just in Ferguson but again across America and now overseas. Thousands taking to the streets of London demanding justice for Michael Brown.

Protests are planned from coast to coast tonight, Thanksgiving eve. We're watching New York City, where a major tunnel leading to several highways were shut down last night. In Los Angeles we begin our coverage tonight with Evan Perez on the breaking news of Michael Brown Sr.'s church -- Evan, excuse me. What are you learning?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Erin, this was a very big surprise on Monday night, that, you know, there were some stores that were burning, but nobody noticed that there was this church that also burned which is very surprising to law enforcement officials, and now we learned that the ATF has joined the investigation.

Now they've taken the lead because they have jurisdictions whenever there is suspicious fire of houses of worship. And they are looking at it simply because there is great suspicion that perhaps, perhaps this church was targeted for its connection to Michael Brown Sr. He is a member of this church.

And one other thing that's interesting is that they saw that there was a break-in and they saw that the fire began right near the front, right near the foyer entrance to the church. And so now the ATF investigators are looking to see whether there was accelerant used, there were things used to make sure that the church burned down -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Evan, thank you very much. Obviously that is a very, very sobering development as they're looking into that.

And we have more of our breaking news tonight. Sara Sidner interviewed the mayor of Ferguson just a short time ago. She has confirmed that Darren Wilson is still with the police department and on administrative leave. I believe paid.

Sara is OUTFRONT tonight with the breaking story.

Sara, this is going to shock a lot of people because we have been told for days, for weeks that he was negotiating his resignation.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. But you know, when that happened, we also spoke with someone at the city and they said actually that negotiation isn't happening. So we've been hearing a lot of different kinds of information. My sources telling me that there was no final, for example, negotiation early on.

But I did want to talk to the mayor about that and I asked him point blank, you know, what is happening, what is the status of Officer Darren Wilson?


SIDNER (voice-over): Michael Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, reacts to Officer Darren Wilson explaining why he shot and killed her son.

OFFICER DARREN WILSON, FERGUSON, MISSOURI POLICE: I gave myself a mental check, can I shoot this guy? You know. Legally, can I? And the question I answered to myself is, I have to. If I don't, he will kill me if he gets to me.

SIDNER: McSpadden says she doesn't believe a word of Wilson's story but the grand jurors clearly did and along with other evidence decided not to indict him. McSpadden says no one from the city of Ferguson has reached out to her after her son's shooting. She says that's why she and her current husband chose to listen to the announcement of the grand jury decision among the protesters outside the police department.

LESLEY MCSPADDEN, MICHAEL BROWN'S MOTHER: I felt the need to do that because, one, they never addressed us, and two, you've heard our pleas and our cries for everything to go the way it should be, and then third of all, we heard this and it was just like -- like I had been shot. Like you shot me now. Just no respect, no sympathy, nothing.

And so my emotions were raging and I have to go up and I had just to let them know, you just really don't care, do you? Why don't you care? This could be your child. This could be anybody's child.

SIDNER: She reacted with sorrow. Her husband responded with anger.

Louis Head has been accused by some in the public of inciting the riots with those words.

MCSPADDEN: His emotions were taken him over just like mine. He just spoke out of anger. It's one thing to speak and it's a different thing to act. He did not act. He just spoke out of anger. I'm a grieving mother. That is my husband. He's been around Michael at least four years so he's grown to love him, not as much as I do, but he's loved him like he loves his own children.

So when you are that hurt and the system has did you this wrong, you may say some things as well. We've all spoke out of anger before.


SIDNER: So you can certainly hear the sadness and the sorrow that the Brown family feels.

I do want to talk to you a little bit about the frustration and sorrow that the folks here in Ferguson feel who own businesses, the folks and residents who live here, and the fact that the National Guard is still here. They are still here at the PD.

Let me give you a little look about what's going on. The National Guard members out in a much smaller force today because -- I want to show you why. Before there were quite a few more troops. Normally we've got a fair number of people who are out protesting. Today we're not seeing that. What we're seeing is just a couple of people, mostly -- a bus there. Mostly it's just media standing here.

But for days, for more than 100 days there have been people out here every single night. This is the first night we haven't seen any sort of big crowds -- Erin. BURNETT: All right, Sara, thank you very much.

And don't miss Sunny Hostin's entire interview with Michael Brown's parents. That is at the top of the hour.

And joining me OUTFRONT now, Democratic Committeewoman of Ferguson Township, Patricia Bynes, our legal analyst Paul Callan, and James Williams, he's the attorney for Michael Brown's friend, Dorian Johnson who was with Michael Brown the day he was killed. He also testified before the grand jury.

Good to have all of you with us.

Patricia, let me start with you, and start first with this news about possible arson, that it could have been an arsonist who burned down the church that Michael Brown's father is affiliated with. Is this something that shocked you?

PATRICIA BYNES, FERGUSON TOWNSHIP DEMOCRATIC COMMITTEEWOMAN: No, not at all. After being down here on the ground, what has happened with the protest attracted people with their own agendas. And I mean this -- from the people that are here, this is to be expected. There are a lot of people who are here and who have come from out of town to use this as an opportunity to be destructive.

So that is not surprising to me at all. And I believe authorities are -- have been aware of that as well.

BURNETT: And obviously at this point we don't know who might have been responsible, if it was arson.

But, James, let me ask you. What about the other breaking news that we just heard the mayor of Ferguson say that Darren Wilson has not yet resigned from the police force. I mean, we were under the understanding that would happen immediately, if there was not an indictment.

What is your reaction to the fact that it's not done yet?

JAMES WILLIAMS, ATTORNEY FOR DORIAN JOHNSON: You know, this is the latest in a series of broken promises from the leadership that have -- that have given us this grand jury verdict. We've been promised transparency and we didn't see that. We were told that Darren Wilson would leave the police force and he isn't. These are the kinds of things, the kind of inconsistencies that are leading to the frustration that we're seeing in the Ferguson community.

No one condones the violence, no one likes to see the property damage, but the frustration and anger are certainly understandable given that time and time and time again in this case we're being told one thing but reality is different.

BURNETT: And at the very least, it appears to be incredibly tone deaf.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, local authorities have been tone deaf since day one in this horrible, tragic case. And, you know, with respect to the resignation or potential resignation, I was always surprised by that story and I know there had been negotiations going on, but for an officer to resign while he was facing potential murder charges would have -- maybe sent a signal to the grand jury that, you know, is he guilty?

BURNETT: But the fact that there was no indictment, they should have had it ready, right?

CALLAN: You would think, except for this. First of all, I was looking into the Ferguson pension situation. You have to be a cop for eight years to qualify for a pension in Ferguson. He's been there for six years. So now he was at another police force and maybe he can put that on. But you know, retirement from a police force is all about, do you get pension benefits? So I'm sure there is a lot of that going on in the background and they probably just didn't reach an agreement with him.

BURNETT: That he's trying to fight.

CALLAN: That -- yes. Sure.

BURNETT: Now, Patricia, I guess it may shock some people but let me ask you about what you just heard in our piece. You know, you've heard Michael Brown's mother reacting to what his stepfather had said in Ferguson, you know, we're going to burn that B-I-T-C-H down, and there is question about whether that moment and that scream and that shout was part of the problem, incited some of the horrible violence and looting and riots that we saw.

You said you felt betrayed by what he said?

BYNES: Yes. It was very difficult to watch that video when he said that because there has been a community behind this family and behind getting to the truth and getting justice what happened -- to what happened to Mike Brown. And it felt like such a betrayal because the lashing out that cane out and that was expressed to the community by burning down businesses, there are people that are out of jobs now. There are people -- and it is terrible.

The entire -- I mean the community feels horrible about what happened and has been trying to support this family and itself through this entire situation but it just seemed like burning down Ferguson, I don't -- that doesn't help -- that doesn't bring Mike Brown back. And it just seems such an ugly thing to say when there have been so many people out here working towards justice. It was really a sad moment.

BURNETT: I mean I think you have to admit, no matter whether you think it caused the violence or not, for any viewer, that was an ugly thing to say.

I mean, James, what about the -- you know, the head of the NAACP was on this show last night, I asked him whether he thought that comment, burn this down, caused any of the violence. His response was no, I don't think that was a call for violence or called violence. I was a little surprised he said that. Are you? WILLIAMS: No. I agree with him. Listen, this was a comment made out

of frustration when the world had witnessed one of the worst injustices that we've ever seen. This is not unlike some -- a lot of things we say in frustration to our children. I'm going to kill you, to a spouse, you know, I can't believe you're going to do this, without any real intent to do that. He was frustrated, he was angry.

But the governor didn't call in the National Guard and Department of Justice and all this because Darren -- I mean, excuse me, Michael Brown's stepfather might make these comments. They knew that the injustice of the sham process they set up was going to come crashing down and no one man speaking out in frustration gave rise to this. This was the culmination of just a disrespect that started in August and has continued through today.

CALLAN: Well, you know, I don't know that a sham process was used here. I mean I think the attorneys representing the officer would say it was quite a fair process, when the grand jury got all of the evidence. And I think forgetting about the grand jury process, because we've discussed that a lot. In terms of the security arrangements, what bothers me is local authorities including the governor seemed to have been paralyzed by the criticism from the press and the media and the demonstrator, that First Amendment rights were being restricted.

And remember the early claims that the police had been militarized and that this was causing the demonstrations. So they were not ready apparently to move in aggressively when looters and arsonists started to do bad things, and they should have been ready regardless of whether this individual made an inappropriate statement. It was inappropriate. But there was a bigger picture here as to what caused the breakdown.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks to all. And of course it's a fair point. You know, when you look at their headlines, a state of emergency they declared, the National Guard they call in -- called in, it was pretty shocking that they weren't prepared.

OUTFRONT next, in the wake of the Ferguson grand jury decision, testimony and evidence released shows -- you know what, some really, really serious things could have gone very wrong in this investigation. That's next.

Plus the breaking news that Officer Darren Wilson is still with the Ferguson Police Department. This, as a lot of the grand jury's decision centers around one man, the St. Louis prosecutor Robert McCulloch. We have a full report.

And heavy winds, heavy rain and snow, 30 million Americans trying to get where they want to go by tomorrow. We have the very latest.


BURNETT: Breaking news tonight, the mayor of Ferguson telling CNN Darren Wilson is still with the police department. He's on administrative leave. Mayor James Knowles says they are still waiting for Wilson to make a decision about his job.

Now after the grand jury decided not to indict Wilson, hundreds of pages of testimony and evidence were released to the public and all of this, the more you comb through it is raising bigger and bigger questions about how the investigation was handled. You won't believe some of this.

Pam Brown is OUTFRONT.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Officer Darren Wilson breaking his silence and insisting what did he was right.

WILSON: The only emotion I had ever felt was fear and then it was survival and training.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABS NEWS: And you're absolutely convinced when you look through your heart and your mind that if Michael Brown were white, this would have gone down in exactly the same way?



WILSON: No question.

BROWN: But now as evidence presented to the grand jury has become public, new questions are emerging about the way the investigation was handled. Immediately after the shooting, Officer Wilson washed blood off his hands and told the grand jury, "From everything we have always been taught about blood, you don't want it on you. I had to wash my hands so I go directly to the bathroom, I actually washed them."

And Officer Wilson's gun was not turned over or finger printed immediately after the shooting. Instead Wilson brought it back to the police station and put his own gun into an evidence bag.

MARK O'MARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Actually I think all of those were problematic. I think that the gun should have been taken and secured. I think that the blood should have been swabbed and secured.

BROWN: The police sergeant who was the first to interview Wilson after the shooting, told the grand jury he didn't take notes or record it, saying, number one, I did not have a recorder, number two, I didn't take notes because at that point in time I had multiple things going through my mind besides what Darren was telling me.

The way the scene was processed is also being questioned. The prosecutor asked, did you take any photographs, the medical examiner replied no. When asked why not? The medical examiner said, my battery in my camera died. The medical examiner also told the grand jury it wasn't necessary to take any distance measurements at the scene.

"I got there, it was self-explanatory what happened. Somebody shot somebody."

Cyril Wecht is a forensic pathologist who has handled many high- profile cases.

CYRIL WECHT, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: I cannot believe that anybody would have had the audacity, the stupidity to have been made that statement. You want to note everything in terms of measurements and photography. You want to get everything in meticulous detail.


BURNETT: And we're going to get to more of some of these missteps in a moment. I mean, this is pretty shocking that this happened, but when you look into this, you look into a police training to kind of look at, was this a cover-up or was this just perhaps poor training or incompetence?

BROWN: Well, I've been talking to former, you know, cops about this and that is the question I asked. And a lot of them say, look, the procedures, the training, it varies from police department to police department. And when you get to the smaller police departments like the Ferguson one, they may not perhaps have the same amount of strongly rehearsed practiced procedures as maybe you'll see it at business top shops such as, you know, L.A., New York. And so that could be a play here as well.

And also in the -- the bigger cop shops there are teams sometimes, there are dedicated teams, internal affairs that will go and actually investigate police involved shootings. Of course that's not what the case was with the Ferguson Police Department. In fact the St. Louis County Cops came in to help investigate. But I think what you see is a disparity with the amount of training at play here with these police departments across the country.

BURNETT: Interesting, and then you see something like this and all is out in the open.


BURNETT: Pam, thank you so much.

And joining me now is Dr. Cyril Wecht, a forensic pathologist, and our legal analyst Mark O'Mara.

All right. Good to have both of you with us.

I mean, when you hear some of this, it seems shocking that in the case of this international magnitude, there were some things that were done not the way they should have been done -- done wrong.

And Dr. Wecht, let's start with this. The medical examiner not taking photos because the battery died on that camera as just heard the Pamela report. He didn't take measurements at the scene. Is that something that you could overlook, that's OK in this case?

WECHT: Erin, by no means would this be acceptable. And I would challenge in a friendly way my professional colleague in St. Louis Medical Examiner's Office to go before the American Academy of Forensic Sciences among their distinguished brethren from all over the country and tell them this is how they handled a police shooting case.

And, you know, Ferguson is a suburb of St. Louis, one of America's great large cities. We're not talking about East or (INAUDIBLE) in some far off land. For them not to have a camera or a battery for the recorder, not to have made measurements, this is absolutely unacceptable.

And I'm not saying this in a matter of arrogance, or intellectual condescension. This is something that is basic. You could take a student in his first year of criminal forensic science in any university of America and they would tell you how to conduct an investigation in a shooting. This is --

BURNETT: All right. Obviously quite damning indictment there.

And Mark, look, it also took them over an hour to even call the medical examiner, from when Michael Brown died. Obviously these are mistakes. The guy not having a working camera, it is a huge mistake.

Is this something, though, that could have impacted the forensic evidence, that could have impacted what really happened, it could mean that we will never know what happened that day?

O'MARA: Well, we don't know how much of this gloss-over, you know, that the grand jury heard or didn't hear about these forensic mistakes really impacted them. When I look at the overall global view of what happened and how it happened, thank God that the police actually took over 100, 150 photographs of the scene so that the medical examiner's decision or inability to take photographs probably was not as critical as it may have been in another case.

And I'm a bit more troubled by the fact that Wilson was able to take his own gun and put it into an evidence bag because we know on that gun was, at some point, Mike Brown's blood or presumably Mike Brown's blood and now we have some questions as to how and when it got there. So there was some real problems with this.

I do think that the true relevance was Mike Brown, the turnaround, the confrontation between the two and that probably minimized the damage.

BURNETT: OK. And Dr. Wecht, what about the point that Mark O'Mara raises about the fact the Darren Wilson put his own gun in the evidence bag? Because we also know that some of his initial statements to police weren't recorded. And that in addition to the gun, that he put his own gun in the evidence bag when he went back to the police station, he also washed the blood off his hands and his hands weren't photographed with the blood, they say because a photographer wasn't available. I find that just stunning because everybody has an iPhone.

WECHT: All of these are absolutely atrocious. And they should be so, so concerned and apologetic for what they did, what they failed to do. May I make a comment, Erin, by the way, on something that was

portrayed on your program last night that I saw? I think it's very important. And that is that Officer Wilson says that he shot because Michael Brown had his hand down in his waistband. Obviously the reason that he says, that is because it suggests that maybe Michael Brown was going for some concealed weapon which he heretofore had not pulled out.

Well, I just want to say once again, Erin, and you've seen me portrayed this.


WECHT: You put your right hand down toward your waistband and then you have somebody shooting you straight ahead, and I want to know how you get a bullet that enters a forearm and a bullet that enters the upper arm and that move -- both of them move in an upward direction.

There is no way in the world if you have your hand down in your waistband that will you have two shots entering your arm and have an upward trajectory. That arm was definitely in an uplifted position with Michael Brown facing the officer.

And Michael Brown was shot eight times, not six times, that should be clear for the record, too. There's another wound, a grazing wound across the biceps, and then the shot to the head.


WECHT: I think the officer says that Michael Brown was falling forward and he shot him in the head. I mean, that is barbaric. That is -- that is totally, totally unacceptable.

BURNETT: So, Mark, the bottom line is do you feel confident that we'll ever really know the truth?

O'MARA: Well, we're done with the true evaluation.


O'MARA: Maybe an independent evaluation of really what the truth is going to be. We now have an opportunity to review and do things like this. But you know, they found no probable cause on what they had before them. We now are finding out more mistakes about the presentation. We'll talk about it more.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks to both of you. I appreciate your time.

And next, more of our breaking news. We've got protests growing in Los Angeles, the day after nearly 200 demonstrators were arrested there. We're going to go live there next.

Plus Ferguson erupting after Monday's grand jury decision. We're going to take a -- a look at the toll the riots took and that huge storm hitting the East Coast. 727 flights now canceled.

We'll be back in a moment.


BURNETT: Breaking news, protests growing in Los Angeles at this hour. We want to show you live pictures of what we're seeing here. Last night, protesters shut down parts of the 101 Freeway in both directions. Demonstrators also gathered outside of the police department headquarters, 183 people were arrested.

Paul Vercammen is live in Los Angeles. He's going to show you what's happening there.

I know people have been gathering where you are, Paul.


I'm at the federal courthouse right now, at about 250 demonstrators are here right now.

One of the speakers is saying, "I do not have faith in the justice system, but I have faith in all of you." This is going very smoothly right now. It's peaceful.

But one concern, as you point out, Erin, last night, they went toward the 101 Freeway, well, that's right over here, less than a city block and you can see police officers intend to make a stand, if anybody makes a move toward that freeway and the motorcycle officers in the distance, and federal officers that you cannot see very close by as well. The protesters say they might make a walk toward the city jail.

And, by the way, you are pointing out the arrest last night and talking to a law enforcement source, 166 of those arrests were for disturbing the peace and 15 for curfew. On disturbing the peace, they didn't add any other charges and the bail on that would be about $500. So, very likely that most of them bailed out. So, so far, right here in Los Angeles, on federal property, we've got what seems like a rather peaceful demonstration.

Back to you, Erin.

BURNETT: We'll see what happens as the night goes on and whether they tried to storm the freeway.

And the breaking news tonight, the mayor of Ferguson tells CNN Officer Darren Wilson is still a member of the Ferguson Police Department.

And the other breaking news, a spokesperson for Missouri Governor Jay Nixon tells "The St. Louis Post-Dispatch" that the governor will not name a new prosecutor to present a new case against Officer Wilson to a different grand jury.

St. Louis prosecutor Bob McCulloch was come under intense scrutiny for how he's handled the case.

Ed Lavandera is OUTFRONT.


BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL BROWN JR.'S FAMILY: A first year law student would have did a better job of cross-examining a killer of an unarmed person than the prosecutor's office did.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's the sharp criticism aimed directly at Prosecutor Robert McCulloch after he announced the grand jury's decision.

ROBERT MCCULLOCH, PROSECUTOR: All decisions in the criminal justice system must be determined by the physical and scientific evidence and the credible testimony corroborated by that evidence. Not in response to public outcry or for political expediency.

LAVANDERA: McCulloch lobbed his own criticism, lashing out at news organizations and social media.

MCCULLOCH: The most significant challenge encountered in this investigation has been the 24-hour news cycle and its insatiable appetite for something, for anything, to talk about, following closely behind with nonstop rumors on social media.

LAVANDERA: The grand jury's decision follows persistent calls over the last three months for McCulloch to step down from the case.

MCCULLOCH: I can be fair and I have been fair.

LAVANDERA: The prosecutor's objectivity has been questioned in part because of an event that happened when he was just a child. In 1964, McCulloch's father, a police officer, was shot and killed in the line of duty by an African-American man. The future prosecutor was just 12 years old. McCulloch once told "The St. Louis Post-Dispatch", quote, "I couldn't become a police officer so being county prosecutor is the next best thing."

(on camera): Fourteen years ago, two unarmed black men in St. Louis were killed in a hail of gunfire, more than 20 shots fired by two white police officers in a botched drug bust. At the time, McCulloch called them bums. A grand jury didn't indict the officers and McCulloch refused to file charges.

(voice-over): Despite the tide of recent negativity, he's been re- elected every term since he first took office in 1991 as a Democrat. But that's the history that fuels the prosecutor's most vocal critics.

CHARLIE DOOLEY, ST. LOUIS COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Bob McCulloch has shown in the past he is not sensitive to the African-American community.


LAVANDERA: But even with the grand jury decision now behind him, Robert McCulloch still has many naysayers, questioning how the evidence was laid out and exactly why he decided to make the announcement late in the evening, when protests were more likely to get out of hand.


LAVANDERA: Ed Lavandera, CNN, Ferguson, Missouri.


BURNETT: All right. And I just want to share some breaking news we had in here, just as Ed was finishing his report.

We have confirmed that an AR-15 rifle that was stolen from one of the St. Louis police cruisers that was torched, that an AR-15 has been stolen there, looking for its whereabouts. We're going to update you as we get more on that story. But again, an AR-15, a significant rifle in this nation's conscience, giving it's used in so many shootings.

Joining me OUTFRONT is the attorney for Officer Darren Wilson, Neil Bruntrager.

Neal, let me just get a reaction first to that news, that an AR-15 is missing. That's a pretty awful thing for us to now be hearing.

NEIL BRUNTRAGER, ATTORNEY FOR OFFICER DARREN WILSON: That's the last thing we need is more firearms up here in Ferguson or anywhere in the world. It is not good news, let's say it that way.

BURNETT: No, not at all. And I want to give your reaction, Neil, the mayor of Ferguson, telling CNN your client Darren Wilson still remains with the Ferguson Police Department. What's your reaction and is there any question he is going to leave the police department or is this a sign he may not?

BRUNTRAGER: Erin, there is no way in the world he can go back to being a police officer. The first day he would go back on the street, something terrible would happen to him or someone else that would be working with him, and the last thing in the world he wants to do is put other police officers at risk.

So look, it's not a question of if, it's a question of when. We're talking to Ferguson now about the terms and conditions under which we'd leave. Frankly, it is only a matter of time.

BURNETT: It's only a matter of time. OK.

Now, let me ask you about the report you just heard our Ed Lavandera presented about Bob McCulloch, the prosecutor here. In an editorial today, "The New York Times" blasted his document dump. They said, look, the prosecutor made the grand jury do his job. His job is to go through all the evidence, deciding if there's enough to charge, and if there is enough, you go ahead and put it in front of a jury with the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. They had 70 hours of testimony, 60 witnesses.

It does beg the question, if you are going to make them listen to that, why not put it in front of a real jury and go to beyond a reasonable doubt? BRUNTRAGER: A jury -- and the entire system is set up to do just what McCulloch did in this particular situation. It is designed to have an initial look at all of the evidence. And there are two ways you can go on this, Erin. You could have gone to a preliminary hearing in a courtroom you would put witnesses on the stand and presented this evidence to a judge and said to the judge, you make a decision. Or you could do what McCulloch did, and put it in front of 12 members of the community.

Now, these were seasoned grand jurors. These weren't raw grand jurors. They listened to a number of cases. They had been sitting, what, 2 1/2 months, three months before they first got this case. He put it in front of them. And he put everything in front of them.

How can we complain about the way he did this? Are we going to say he gave them too much evidence?

Now, again, if you went to a preliminary hearing, the problem with that was, you had to put witnesses on the stand, and I think it is clear if you've read the transcripts or if you looked at any of the testimony, there were a number of people who were frightened about testifying.

So, you don't want to do that unless you absolutely have to in the context of the trial. So, you don't say, look, we don't know what happened so let's go to trial. That's not the way the system is set up. There are rules.

We are a nation of law and we proceed by those rules, and that's what McCulloch has done.

BURNETT: All right. Neil, thank you very much. I appreciate your time tonight.

And joining me now, the attorney for Michael Brown's family, Daryl Parks.

Daryl, let me just give you a chance, first of all, to response to what Neil just said, defending the prosecutor, defending his decision to put this in front of a grand jury as opposed to letting a single judge make the decision as to whether it should have gone in front of a "beyond a reasonable doubt" jury.

DARYL PARKS, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL BROWN'S FAMILY: Well, first of all, we believe the flaw is actually this prosecutor should have recused himself. There is ample evidence as to -- for example, Erin, we saw in this case where the prosecutor's office put all cases on hold that Darren Wilson was involved in. They knew based on that there was an issue there. In this -- in our legal system, when you know there is an issue of a conflict, you recuse yourself. He should have been recused.

Their action alone is indicia of why this should have been a recusal by the prosecutor's office.

BURNETT: So, in terms of the issue that we've seen with the grand jury itself, one of the questions that I have for you is McCulloch didn't hide any of the evidence, right? To the contrary, he gave the grand jury everything. The argument is that he gave them too much.

But one of the motivations that's been given for that is he didn't want anybody to say what you said, look, his background, he's biased and he gave them everything. Look at it yourself. He gave it to the grand jury and now, he is going to give it the American public.

Isn't that as good as it gets?

PARKS: No. It's not. That's not -- even in he -- that's not his common process. His common process, one, is to come in normally, present enough evidence to get an indictment, for probable cause, and then to advise the grand jury as to what he believes the charge should be. Now, that is the normal process.

But to leave it to them to do it, to overload and to present one, to present the officer's defense to them, number two, to demonize and criticize the victim in this case in the way that he did. I mean, from -- based from his presentation, he made a point to make sure that we saw all of the negative about the victim in this case. And this family takes exception to the comments made by the prosecutor at his press conference. It was rather clear of what his -- I mean, his approach to dealing with the issue of Michael Brown given the situation.

BURNETT: All right. Daryl, good to see you. And thank you.

PARKS: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, did arsonists in Ferguson burned down a church because Michael Brown's father is a member there? Right now, that is under investigation, we can report tonight.

And 30 million Americans on the move. Winter weather is causing chaos. We've got the latest on massive flight cancellations and these images from around the nation.


BURNETT: Breaking news out of the Ferguson area: a St. Louis County sergeant confirms to CNN that officials are searching for a missing AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle believed to be taken from a police car when it was torched during the riots earlier this week.

Also tonight, federal officials are investigating whether arsonists targeted Michael Brown's father's church, setting it on fire. It's just one of at least a dozen building that were torched, as protested spirals out control in the community earlier this week. There has been gunshots, looting, arson. Residents and business owners now dealing with the shell of their town, many of the buildings unrecognizable.

Sara Sidner is OUTFRONT from Ferguson.

And, Sara, you have been there, you know, and you've been there over the months. So, you've seen the town and you've seen the devastation of this week. I want to ask you, first though, about this incredibly disturbing headline, this missing AR-15 assault rifle.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, we're hearing it came out of a St. Louis County police car. We can tell you we are on the street where we saw two police cars burned on this side and not too far down the road, another police car burned outside of the city hall here in Ferguson. We believe that police car that we saw last night burn outside of city hall was actually a Ferguson police car. But the two that were down at the other end could very well have been the county cars.

The difficulty is by the time we saw them go up in flames, we could not make out. I mean, they were so badly damaged. And people were punching out the windows and the fire started because someone punched out the windows and purposely started those fires. It is disturbing now that the gun now is in the hands of someone who would do something like that.

To give you some idea about all of this, there is a lot of talk now about the fact that among the protesters, there were simply people who intended to be criminals and that is exactly what we saw and you are seeing the businesses behind me who have suffered because of that, boarded up, every single one of them. These were not boarded up. These were all open and glass when I first got here. They were open and glass before this whole thing exploded and they decided to board up because they were broken into, and this is just some of the destruction that's happening here in Ferguson.


SIDNER (voice-over): On the streets of Ferguson, the morning light revealed the devastation after two nights of destruction.

POLICE: Stop throwing objects at the police and disperse immediately.

SIDNER: The announcement of the grand jury decision brought an explosion of anger and violence in Ferguson. Police surrounded this auto parts store early in the evening but rioters torched it. The store lit up the night's sky and continued burning well into the next day.

Ferguson Market and Liquor is the store where Michael Brown allegedly stole some cigarillos, just minutes before he was fatally shot. It became a target for looters.

But some chose to stand up for their town. Andre Thomas didn't know the owner of this wig shop.

(on camera): Tell me what you are doing out here?

ANDRE THOMAS, PROTESTER: Saw some people looting. That is not what I'm about and I'm trying to protect it.

SIDNER (voice-over): Others tried to save Cathy's Kitchen, a favorite local restaurant run by a local family. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leave this alone. Leave this alone.

SIDNER: Still even Cathy's was vandalized.

In the days and weeks before Monday's decision, business owners boarded up, hoping for the best but the best efforts were no match for this week's fury.

This is what is left of Little Caesars, prime beauty supply, Flood Christian Church.

(on camera): More than 2,000 national guards were ordered to the streets Tuesday, the governor promising there would not be a repeat of Monday night's violence.

(voice-over): Still, another police car was set on fire and flipped over and more businesses were crashed as police tried to break up crowds with teargas and smoke bombs.

Natalie Dubose's bakery was heavily damaged.

NATALIE DUBOSE, OWNER, NATALIE'S CAKES & MORE : It feels like I'm in "The Twilight Zone", that I'm watching this happen and I'm having to live it. The destruction here is just absolutely unbelievable.

SIDNER: By daylight, there were small glimmers of hope. Volunteers turned up to help with the clean-up.

Natalie Dubose turned to crowdfunding for help. More than $100,000 has been pledged.

And at Cathy's Kitchen?

JEROME JENKINS, OWNER, CATHY'S KITCHEN: I can rebuild. I will make it.


SIDNER: And he's amazing. That family opened up and they were absolutely jam packed.

I want to give you more of the glimmers of hope that we're seeing. What we're seeing for the boarded up places, is they are being painted up with beautiful murals and we've seen this across Ferguson and South Florissant in particular. So far, though, folks cannot get down to West Florissant where most of the damage is and where the major destruction is. But we're seeing at least some folks trying to beautify the city that's been hit so hard -- Erin.

BURNETT: So disheartening on Thanksgiving Eve.

Thank you so much, Sara.

And next, the Thanksgiving forecast, wind, heavy rain and snow and 30 million Americans in this storm's path.

We'll be right back.


BURNETT: Breaking news: a fierce winter storm barreling up the East Coast, right now, wreaking havoc on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

Thirty million people from North Carolina to Maine affected. Parts of New England expected to see up to 20 inches of snow. Nearly 750 flights have been canceled already. Close to 4,400 others are massively delayed. According to FlightAware, that number will rise.

The wintry mix of snow and freezing rain is making driving incredibly dangerous and, according to AAA, more than 41 million people are expected to travel by car for Thanksgiving.

Our meteorologist Chad Myers is OUTFRONT.

Chad, where is the storm the worst right now?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Probably the worst right now is Vermont, New Hampshire, and on up to Maine.

Now, the roads are re-freezing in Pennsylvania, and upstate New York, as well, even though the lighter snow is there, just enough snow to make these roads turn back into ice. What we don't need.

So, here's the snow now ending Philadelphia, completely over for Baltimore, D.C., and moving on up into upstate, also into the Green Mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire.

There you go, D.C. -- just about over for you. A little bit of light shower activity, and rain showers mixing in at the very end here.

But this is where it's still tough, to the western suburbs of New York City, along Morristown, and also back into the Poconos and into the Catskills, and wherever it is the whitest right here, that's where the travel troubles are happening right now.

A lot of the interstates are very slow. If you're trying to get to a ski resort or something up into Vermont, New Hampshire, it is going to be a very slow ride from here, somewhere in the neighborhood of around 30 miles per hour, Erin.

BURNETT: Wow, 30 miles an hour. And you're talking about 20 inches of snow in some places. When people think about what happened in Buffalo, where you got multiples of that, it's pretty stunning for this time of year. How long will this bad weather last?

MYERS: You know, I think we're probably in this for another six hours. The good news is, the airports are getting out of it. We think, well, there's not that many delays. That's the great thing. You know why there aren't delays? Because they canceled all the flights that were going to be delayed. So, that's why delays aren't showing up. Here's the forecast map, it's still snowing, upstate, even by 8:00,

10:00, still snowing. Now I'll move you ahead. This is 11:00 tonight, a couple of snow showers in New York, but then, bam, it is gone, by morning, it is all done. And even Snoopy and Woodstock and maybe even Santa Claus will have a good time tomorrow, somewhere around 34 degrees for the Macy's Day Parade.

BURNETT: Let's hope so. Because whether you're there, i.e., here in New York or around the country, it is a real joy to watch that.

Thank you so much, Chad.

And we'll be right back.


BURNETT: President Obama continued an American tradition today, ordering a pardon, or as he joked, amnesty, for two turkeys named Mac and Cheese.

Presidential turkey pardons actually date back to the 1800s. Only Cheese showed up to the pardon, but both Cheese and Mac will retire to a Virginia farm.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. Enjoy the wonderful day. Hope it's special for you and your families.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" begins right now.