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Manhunt Ongoing for Cop Shooter; Protests in Ferguson; Police and Race Relations

Aired March 12, 2015 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening from Ferguson where the sun goes down about three minutes from now and it sets on a far different place than less than 24 hours ago.

For all this community has been through, for all this community has seen, never before had to with the two police officers, now it has who are the good the people here and there are plenty of good people have to fully face the reality that their peaceful message could be quickly overshadowed as attorney general Eric Holder put it by some damn punk with a gun.


COOPER: That's what happened last night.

Tonight, after this, it is a different Ferguson. Missouri's governor is coming tomorrow to see for himself. A highway patrol and the county police have now taken over security duty at this spot. A manhunt is under way for the would-be cop killer. In just the last hour, we've learned that investigators are seeking to question two people in connection with the crime including perhaps they say the suspect, according to one official. We're going to have more on that in a moment.

Meantime tonight, there's a vigil instead of a protest. It gets under way in about an hour just down the street from where I'm standing. And everywhere you look in this community there is deep concern and throughout this state about what happens next after what happened here last night.

Our Jason Carroll begins with that.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A blue line of law enforcement is on guard at the Ferguson police station, just after midnight.


CARROLL: When shots rang out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was just gunfire and now cops have guns drawn. CARROLL: Two officers are hit, one in the shoulder. The bullet rips

through his body and exits through his back. The other officer was shot in the face, the bullet lodges behind his ear. They were both rushed to the hospital in serious condition after what authorities call an ambush.

CHIEF JOHN BELMAR, ST. LOUIS COUNTY POLICE: Several shots were fired, at least three, and two officers were struck. I don't have an official status on what their condition is right now. They are conscious, however, those are very serious gunshot injuries to be able to sustain in your upper torso and certainly in your face.

CARROLL: At the scene, intense moments in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. Some police draw their weapons. Others take cover to prepare for the possibility of incoming fire. And then, situation seems secure, the priority to found out who just shot two of their own.

This is tip upon Steepen (ph) street. And if you look behind me, you can see where it is in relation to the Ferguson police department where the officers were shot there. Police theorize that whoever was responsible for this shooting was standing about 125 yards north of where the officers were shot, possibly right up this street here in that area.

Early this morning, authorities swarmed this house a half mile from the shooting scene. Dozens of law enforcement in SWAT gear and police dogs descend. Some entered a home through the front door. While others try to pry a hole in the roof described as a tactical situation related to the shooting investigation. Three people are taken in for questioning, two men and one woman. Iresha Turner was one of them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 3:00 in the morning, we heard boom! Boom! Boom!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If the police say that we know you are in there, we let Iresha (ph) to come out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE). I look at my chances to read out. I go back and I had hands up. Please don't shoot me.

CARROLL: Turner says she was protesting last night. When the shooting happened, she sped away from the scene in her car out of fear, possibly raising suspicions of law enforcement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After they searched the house, they asked for a search warrant to go in the attic. It was something in the attic.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it was a gun they found in the attic. It was not to be used to hurt anyone. It was used to protect myself.

CARROLL: She was questioned but not charged.

Later on in the day, some good news, both officers are released from the hospital.

BELMAR: We're lucky by god's Grace we didn't lose two officers last night.

CARROLL: And as the day turns into night, Ferguson is on edge as a manhunt for whoever shot the officers continues.


COOPER: Jason Carroll joins me now. So the three who are involved, do we know what they were asked about?

CARROLL: Well, yes. I mean, as you know, they were questioned for several hours. They were asked repeatedly, first of all, were they involved in the shooting? They were repeatedly told police that they were not. Then they were asked over and over, did you see who fired the shots? They also indicated that there was no way that they could have seen that. They heard the shots, saw the officers go down but did not see specifically who fired the weapons. So you can imagine --

COOPER: Do we know how police ended up at the house with them? Was it they had taken off from the scene?

CARROLL: Exactly. I mean, what had happen was Iresha Turner had called her grandmother right after the shooting and said, you know, there has just been a shooting. Her grandmother told her, get out there as quick as you can. So, all of three of them, Anderson, jumped inside the car and speed away. What they theorize is, that may have alerted the suspicion of authorities who are out here, perhaps indicating that maybe they were involved. That's what they have been followed them to the house.

COOPER: OK. I want to also bring in a CNN producer, Shimon Prokupecz, on the late word that authorities now have two people. They are looking to speak with in connection with the shooting including perhaps; I want to say perhaps, the suspect. What do you know?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN PRODUCER: Well, we know that they've spent the entire day sort of knocking on doors, going to different homes in Ferguson around the St. Louis area trying to learn information about possible suspects. And they have learned. They have learned of two names in these two people. They believe were here last night participated in the protest and they believe one of those is the shooter.

COOPER: So they believe that at least one of them was actually part of the protest?

PROKUPECZ: Correct. They believe they were here and they were part of the protest and that after the shots rang out, they ran away and now they're looking for them. They have some good leads on them. They know who they are but can't find them.

COOPER: Is it known what kind of weapon was used? PROKUPECZ: It is not clear because there are - some of the shell

cases that were found. So these bullets may have come from pistols, it may have come from something that was modified to be like a rifle sort of to give it that extra power, that extra kick.

COOPER: I mean, it was a distance from where the officers were shot.

PROKUPECZ: Yes, quite a distance. So that sort of the puzzling thing. How could a gun from that far be fired from so far be so active?

COOPER: And so they have two names that they're looking for.

PROKUPECZ: Yes. At least two names and looking for others to see, how did they get away? Who helped them? Was the plan to come here beforehand with the intention of doing this? And so, it's a whole group of people, different people that they want to question, but they're zeroing in on two people specifically.

COOPER: And obviously, they have not released those names publicly.


COOPER: All right, Shimon, thank you very much. Jason Carroll as well.

We mentioned at the top of the program, attorney general Eric Holder's assessment of the shooter. He spoke aptly enough at the launch today of a pilot program that's supposed to build trust between law enforcement and local communities. Listen.


ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: What happened last night was a pure ambush. This was not someone trying to bring healing to Ferguson. This was a damn punk. Punk, who was trying to discord in an area that's trying to get its act together and trying to bring together a community that has been fractured for too long.


COOPER: The attorney general earlier today. And what the organizers hope will be the spirit of mutual respect and goodwill, there's a candlelight vigil getting under way. At the top of the hour, very shortly, all who mourn are welcome reads the invitation whether they are mourning violence against law enforcement, by against law enforcement or by law enforcement or simply violence within in the community, it doesn't matter. They said they are all welcome in the vigil tonight. We'll check on that shortly to see if people do come out.

With me, two witnesses to the shooting. (INAUDIBLE) Who co-edit a protest in newsletter. Appreciate both of you being with us. Where were you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was standing over there by the light bulb. COOPER: OK. So that the police station, right there. The fire

department right there. So you were by the light bulb and it's believed the shots came from up the hill. So, what did you hear, what did you see?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So the police were lined up. And the protesters are lined up. We were waiting on three people to get out of jail. And so, a lawyer, a legal observer and a protester went across the street. And they were standing right in front of the Ferguson police department door. And so we were just waiting on the people to come out so we can see if they were OK and then everyone normally leaves after that. But as soon as they crossed the street, maybe like a minute later, that's when I heard four loud shots.

COOPER: You heard four shots?


COOPER: And in a quick succession?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. And after the shots, you know, I look -- because I'm looking at the hill where I think that it's coming from. And I see, when I'm gazing over, I see the protesters on the ground to get behind cars and then I see the police on the ground. I knew they were shot and not like, something else.

COOPER: Where were you when the shots went off?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was in my car at the base of the hill right here when the shooter was at the top of the hill. So I saw - I heard the shots, at least four shots. I saw the police officers fall. I mean, I saw the police officers call for the ambulance and police officers immediately got behind me and at least police cars or like the brick edifices is down there and they had their weapons drawn. Everybody had their weapons drawn. I mean, then there is a group of officers that went up the hill. And then when they walk by us, they made our hands up so they can see that there were no weapons.

COOPER: Did you look up the hill when you heard the shots rang out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did. I didn't see anybody but it was clear the shots came from that direction.

COOPER: Clear to you? No doubt about it?


COOPER: I mean, you edit a protest newsletter and have been here a lot over the last many months. To have something like this happen after most of these protests, you know, they happen very regularly, most of them peaceful, there are some arrests and things like that, what kind of impact do you think it's going to have?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, we don't know who the shooter was, right? So what we do know that the shooter was not standing with the protesters, was not in space with the protesters frequent. We don't park up there. We don't stand up there. We don't go up there. So in terms of the movement, the movement is as strong as it was yesterday, right? What is still true is that we are out here fighting for justice and we've been doing for 216 days at this point and fighting against police brutality. It was real as it is yesterday as today.

COOPER: You don't believe, is the time for protest, does it continue in your opinion? I mean, we have - there is two officers now have been shot. Do you feel you want the protests to continue tonight and every night?


COOPER: Some people might say, two officers have been shot. This is obviously a dangerous situation. Maybe it's time to cool things down for a little bit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's dangerous for black people in America every day. Police getting shot, that has nothing to do with the fact there are seven black men and teenage boys total who have been killed by the police in St. Louis since August 9th including Mike Brown. So we want justice and we want accountability for the police against those killings.

Our movement has nothing to do with that shooting that happened yesterday, honestly.

COOPER: To be there and see officers go down here, hear shots, what was it like? I mean, scary?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was more afraid of the police shooting us.

COOPER: You thought that it might escalate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. That's what I was more afraid of. I was afraid they were going to do some type of cross fire and, you know, just anything could have happened. So we're walking with our hands up across the parking lot, I'm praying they don't shoot me because I'm trying to get to my car so I can leave.

I also believe if they really truly believe it was the protesters who did it, we all would not have been able to leave this parking lot.

COOPER: So you think they don't believe it was the protesters?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know they know it was up that hill because as soon as the shots were fired, they trained all their guns up to that hill. Until people started moving and half had their guns up the hill but some still had are started pointing their guns at us, but it was literally just watching us as we walk away.

COOPER: Well, I appreciate both you of coming on to talk about what you saw. We will obviously see what happens in the days ahead. Thank you so much. Appreciate it. Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're welcome. COOPER: Just ahead, we are going to talk to a local pastor and a

police advocate about the fall from last night and what they believe needs to be done now in the coming days. Does the situation here now change? Should the protest continue? Their manhunt is ongoing. We will have more on that and a vigil supposed to get under way soon. We'll have an update on that as well.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bullets were really right passed to my head. It was kind of traumatic that hey, I'm still kind of shock because of it.


COOPER: Well, shock as are a lot of people here are certainly in shock and wondering what tonight will actually bring. There's a vigil planned, as I said. That much we know. We just learned that police are seeking to question two people in connection with the shooting. It could be zeroing in on a suspect. They have two names. They're looking for those people. Two police officers are amazingly out of the hospital, thankfully recovering from gunshot wounds that came within eerily just a few minutes of being deadly. One officer was shot in the head. The bullet lodged close to his ears.

Chief Thomas Jackson, his resignation takes effect on the 19th, stepped down yesterday, as you know. County police and highway patrol, not Ferguson police, now have responsibility for Security in this area for protest security. And nerves, obviously, here are a bit frayed as people wait to see what happened next. Our Jake Tapper joins us now. He has been here all throughout the day, obviously, reported here an awful lot over the last many months.

What has it been like the mood around town?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, THE LEAD: It's definitely tense. We were grabbing a bite and a local member of the community, older white gentleman, very angry about us being here, very angry about the protests going on now for 216 days and then obviously siding with the police suggesting that the protesters need to stop. It's enough already. And then there are a lot of protesters that seem to be in many different camps. There are those such as those close to Michael Brown's family who really are horrified about what happened last night and think that it put sets it, obviously in of itself, a horrible incident and they are glad the police officers are OK. But also it sets back what they've been marching for and protesting. And then other protesters who seemed quite frankly a little less distressed by what happened because they view the violence against the two police officers within a larger historical context of violence against African-Americans in Missouri. And I think there's a lot of debate right now about what to do this evening because of that.

COOPER: Right. It does seem like there is, you know, a lot of people want to continue with the protest. They say, look, it's terrible what happened but the protests should go on. And you also hear from some people. There's a grandmother of one of the one who was actually taken into custody earlier who said, like I wish people weren't out protesting. You know, enough already. It's time to kind of settle things down.