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UVA Student's Arrest Sparks Protests; African-American Man's Body Found Hanging from a Tree; ISIS Claims Responsibility for Yesterday's Attack in Tunisia. Aired 8-9:00p ET.

Aired March 19, 2015 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:06] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Hey, good evening. Thanks for joining us. We begin with breaking news in the arrest of a university of Virginia student caught on video outside of a local bar that sparked protest at the university and beyond. It also triggered a state level investigation now into whether Virginia alcohol enforcement officers used excess force during the encounter.

The student's name is Martese Johnson. He appeared late today with his attorney who had a brief statement disputing the charges against him including that he had a fake ID.

Now, in a moment, university's top diversity official joins us. But first, Brian Todd on how this all came to be.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, his head is bleeding!

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A disturbing scene on the sidewalk. Just a few feet from the University of Virginia campus, Martese Johnson, a 20-year-old UVA student is pinned to the ground by agents for the Virginia department of alcoholic beverage control, an injury to his head requiring ten stitches.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did this happen you (bleep) racist.

TODD: What's your opinion of the way police treated him?

JENNIFER GOLDMAN, EYEWITNESS: I mean, I didn't necessarily see any violence. But then again, I didn't see any of them trying to help him.

TODD: UVA student Jennifer Goldman witnessed part of the confrontation early Wednesday when Johnson was already on the ground. She recognized him from an orientation session he'd led this year.

GOLDMAN: He introduced himself to the entire group, the most very outgoing and nice and bright and cheerful.

TODD: Virginia's governor ordered an investigation into whether excessive force was used, concerned over these images of Johnson's head bloodied. For young African-Americans who protested on the streets of Charlottesville, this reopens the wounds of Ferguson, Madison, Staten Island. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're pissed. We're angry. We want answers.

We want people to be punished for, you know, the mistreatment they had on, you know, beyond Martese. We just need, you know, we need people to be held accountable.

TODD: UVA's black student alliance calls Johnson's treatment brutal and animalistic. Johnson himself addressed the rally in a measured tone.

MARTESE JOHNSON, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA STUDENT: We are all part of one community. We need to respect each other especially in times like this.

TODD: But even at Wednesday night's protest, police got one woman in a headlock. The officers who arrested Johnson are from a state agency known as ABC. An official of that agency would not respond to the allegations of excessive force.

In charging documents, Johnson is described as being intoxicated, agitated, and belligerent that he just been turned away from a bar on St. Patrick's day. It's not clear how he sustained these wounds or what happened in the moments before this scene was videotaped.

As you come back to the scene, you see his blood still here, how do you feel?

GOLDMAN: Now seeing it all in the daylight, it's definitely surreal. I can't believe I saw it firsthand.


COOPER: And Brian Todd joins us from Charlottesville.

So this is not the first time that agents of that Virginia ABC department have been accused of excessive force, right?

TODD: That's right, Anderson. In April 2013, these Virginia ABC agents arrested 20-year-old Elizabeth Bailey. She was a University of Virginia student. They swarmed her car outside of Harris Teeter supermarket here. They thought she was purchasing beer underage. They swarmed her car. At least one of the agents drew a gun. They arrested her. It turns out she was carrying bottled water, sparkling bottled water and some cookie dough. The agents got disciplined and they did changed policy as result of that. But it was a very embarrassing episode for the same agency here in Virginia.

COOPER: All right, Brian Todd, appreciate that.

Dr. Marcus Martin is a physician as well as the university's chief officer for diversity and equity. He joins us now.

Dr. Martin, thanks for being with us.


COOPER: And I understand you spoke to Martese Johnson. What did he tell you about the incident?

MARTIN: That's correct. And Anderson, let me preface this by saying I'm a professor of emergency medicine at University of Virginia but I was not in the emergency department when Martese came in. So I don't have access to his medical records and I don't have access to the police records.

But I spoke with him along with several other students yesterday in the office of Dr. Maurice Frey who is Dean of office of African- American affairs. And Martese is an individual that I've known for three years, as you already said, I was member of the honor committee, he is an orientation leader, he is a mentor in the office for African- American affairs. He's an upstanding citizen and he has contributed a lot to the university and the community.

He told me when I saw him that he was on the corner and that's the area across from the university with other students. He was talking to the person at the front door of the particular pub, I guess the bouncer. And suddenly, he was asked to come over to speak with an ABC officer. The officer asked him for his ID. He presented the ID. And there was some confusion about whether the ID was fake or not and the ID was not fake. I saw his ID. He has ID from the state of Illinois. His birthday is listed correctly on the ID. I think the ABC officer asked him his zip code. He gave a zip code for his current home. His mother just bought a new home recently. But his ID from the state of Illinois, which is still valid through June when he becomes 21, had a different zip code. So there was some confusion I think with an ABC officer.

Then he was asked to go over and speak to another ABC officer and he was asked about his ID again. And I think he showed his ID. And then there was some words exchanged when he was accused of having a fake ID. And then things escalated. And then that's he told me that he was pushed, the back of his neck down to the hard pavement, which is a brick pavement in front of the pub.

[20:06:04] COOPER: So what do you --

MARTIN: And that's when he sustained his injuries.

COOPER: What do you make of this incident? I mean, as in the position you're in.

MARTIN: Right, right. As an emergency physician, you know, I have seen all sorts of injuries, gunshot wounds, stabbings, I mean, I've even incubated (ph) young folks who breathe in four times a minute due to alcohol, taking care of people with ankle sprains and various other things and also taking care of individuals who have been intoxicated. He apparently was not intoxicated by way of a breathalyzer test.

COOPER: So a breathalyzer test was done?

MARTIN: A breathalyzer test was done. He told me, I don't have the results of that, but the breathalyzer test was done at the police station. And it did not indicate he was intoxicated. The by standers, credible witnesses that I spoke with indicated that he did not resist arrest, but however, he was charged to my knowledge on obstructing justice, as well as being drunk in public. Nearer of which seems to have occurred.

Even if so, no one should have been treated this way that brutally, pushed down on the hard walk pavement and sustained trauma like he did. He had a vertical laceration forehead into the scalp, which I saw and I saw where the stitches were placed, (INAUDIBLE), bruising, redness, abrasions about his face that should not have happened. This should have been de-escalated and officers could have taken him to the side, I believe, and just said, OK, well, let's have a conversation rather than pushing down to the pavement.

COOPER: Dr. Martin, I want you to stay with us because I want to bring in "New York Times" columnist Charles Blow and also former secret service agent Dan Bongino.

Charles, do you believe excessive force was used here? We don't see the incident that precipitated.

CHARLES BLOW, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Right. It's really hard to know from watching a video. It's very gory, very unsettling. We don't know what happened before that. We only have kind of statements from the young man who was pushed to the ground statements from authorities.

I guess the bigger question for me though is not necessarily about the case itself as much as it is about the why discretion that authorities have. So that people can exercise a little bit of force, they can exercise tremendous amount of force, and it can all fall within policies, procedures, and training and so, that you can have a situation where somebody could be escalating. You don't have to push it all the way to the top.

And then they choose to do that because it's in their discretion to do it. That is a disturbing trend, I think, in a lot of these cases where you could see how someone could have been detained without excessive use of force or massive use of force in this case. You could see how people could be still alive and not dead and take it into custody, but we see these cases happen over and over again where people know they can make the choice within the policy.

COOPER: Dan, how do you see this? I mean, look, anytime alcohol is involved and the doctor was saying he believes the breathalyzer was taken and that alcohol wasn't found, the police certainly seemed to have indicated that they believed he was drunk at the time or under the influence. How do you see this?

DAN BONGINO, FORMER NYPD OFFICER: Well, I think there are two important issues here, Anderson. The first being, we're over criminalized as a society. I think being a former law enforcement officer and honestly being a young kid who tried to sneak into bars, I can say that on your television show, I've seen it from both sides. It was really necessary and granted, I have not seen what happened before the incident, but I think we could all agree trying to sneak into the bar is probably not worthy of 10 stitches in the head or an incident like this. We saw in the garner case in Staten Island as well. You had a case of

loose cigarettes where a man leaves in a box dead. As a society, are we really willing to use force to enforce laws like this which could be easily handle with some type of a court summon or some lesser fine.

[20:10:06] COOPER: Dr. Martin, what do you want to see happen now? I mean, obviously, investigations are going to be going on.

MARTIN: Yes. Well, in this case, the young man was charged with, I think, using profanity and being drunk in public as well as obstructing justice. I would like to see those charges eliminated from his record.

President of the university, President Teresa Sullivan, has already worked with the governor's office and asked for an independent assessment, an independent evaluation of investigation of this incident. And hopefully, the investigation will show that he's not guilty of these charges. As I said, the breathalyzer test showed that he was not intoxicated. You can have numbers on a breathalyzer test but he was not intoxicated.

The other thing too is we need healing here in this community. The University of Virginia has been under quite a bit of duress for the past year or so. Our students held a rally last night under about 1500 or so students here. We have students from neighboring institutions like Virginia Tech to come over and also support the students. The students will have an event tomorrow. They'll have a discussion with local police tomorrow to get a better understanding about what's going on here and aspects of safety.

We want a safe environment. We work very hard for this to be a welcoming environment and inclusive environment. And when we have incidents like this, it takes it down a notch. And it drains us all. The motions are running high with students, with staff, with faculty, with the community. And we need to heal.

COOPER: Charles, I mean, again, we haven't seen the actual incident. So it's very easy to, you know, project what you think happened on to this. But at the very least, there seems like with this agency, presentations of training the prior incident in 2013 where the gun was drawn on somebody who was a woman thought to have alcohol in her car and turned out to be sparkling water. I mean, as you said, police have a lot of discretion.

BLOW: Right. And so, what we have to figure out is, are these people - are the authorities in each of these cases equally applying that discretion to everyone. I think a lot of the kind of protests and backlashes from this is whether or not people feel like it's an equal application of that discretion. If we see patterns, if we can step back enough to see patterns and we see those patterns are inequitable, then we have to address those as society, not as just one officer.

COOPER: Yes. Should point out, the prior incident, the woman was Caucasian, if that matters to people.

Interesting discussion, Charles, thank you. Dan Bongino as well. Dr. Martin as well. Thank you very much. Charles is going to stick around.

Just ahead, breaking news out of Mississippi. FBI is now investigating the death of African-American man. His body found hanging from a tree. We have new details about his identity. Very clear, a lot is not known about what happened. Could have been suicide? Could have been something else? We will find out as much as we can ahead.

Also new developments in Tunisia, claim of responsibility apparently by ISIS. Plus, the weapon the attackers never got to use.


[20:17:10] COOPER: Breaking news tonight out of Mississippi with some very troubling overtone the discovery of an African-American man's body hanging from a tree in the woods. Now it's important to say right at the top neither we, nor investigators, have all the facts. We don't know if it's suicide. We don't know if it's something else. We do know the FBI and the justice department's civil rights division considered serious enough to get involved.

A law enforcement official tells us the man is believed to be a 54- year-old man named Otis Byrd (ph), convicted killer fold nine years ago who has been missing since earlier this month. The body was found in the woods not far from the home where he had been living in Mississippi's Claiborne County, southwest of the capital, Jackson.

Now, shortly before air time, the county sheriffs spoke to reporters and described the scene.


SHERIFF MARVIN LUCAS, CLAIBORNE COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI: Got down and we seen a man that head off cross a bed sheet tied around his neck. This is the first time that I ever witnessed anything like that in Clayton County.


COOPER: There's Sheriff Lucas, would not identify the body nor would he comment on the type of injuries pending an autopsy. He did, however, deny that the victim's hands had been tied behind his back.

CNN's Evan Perez has working the story. He joins us now with more. I mean, it seems obviously, you know, a lot of caution should be done on reporting the story. Because frankly, this very well could be a suicide. What else have you learned from law enforcement?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. And you know, this, Otis Byrd went missing on March 2nd according to authorities. His family reported him missing on March 8th. And they started looking for him. They went to search this area. This area where this body was found today was searched before. However, they hadn't searched this exact area. It is about 500 yards behind the home where it was a last listed of living. It is very wooded area. And so, this is when they found the body about 10:00 this morning. The authorities, local authorities called in the FBI immediately and the justice department for obvious reasons, the circumstances in which the body was found.

COOPER: Also, I know Evan, I think the sheriff said they'd been raining lately in the area, so that is why they haven't kind of searched this part of the woods. I imagine that would also, if there were any traces of you know footprints or anything like that, that would make it more difficult for law enforcement to try and figure out what exactly had happened.

PEREZ: Right. It would complicate what they're trying to do. And that's one - it is also, decomposed body. So that's also one reason why they're having perhaps, taking a look before they publicly announce who they found there, Anderson. And we know that, you know, the authorities there were immediately concerned simply because, obviously, the lynching history in Mississippi is something that, you know, immediately this has brought reminders of that and so the justice department wanted to make sure they were also involved very quickly.

COOPER: Does his criminal record or have authorities said how his criminal record may play into something or not? I mean, I think the sheriff said he didn't know of any enemies this guy had.

[20:20:00] PEREZ: Right. They don't know yet. But, you know, because he was convicted of killing someone, that is immediately what I was told by authorities was that immediately part of the investigation to see if someone who had a beef with him, someone who wanted to get even with him even after these many years was possibly involved in this, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Evan. I appreciate the update.

I want to bring in CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes, also again, CNN political commentator and "New York Times" columnist Charles Blow.

Tom, obviously the FBI involvement, is that just out of - I mean, given the history, the FBI would automatically be called in on something like this?

TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR: Well, that's true, Anderson. You know, a black man hanging from a tree, it conjures up practically century old domestic terrorism committed against blacks in the south by white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and other groups, (INAUDIBLE). So I think that immediately, the possibility of domestic terrorism, because of the manner of the death, causes the FBI to take a look at it right away to go ahead and start the investigation right now.

And again, they don't know if it's suicide. They don't know if somebody else had another reason to kill him. He made enemies in prison. He has enemies since he has been out of prison. You know, all those facts will have to be investigated. But the appearance of it is enough to get the FBI involved right away. COOPER: Tom, and the fact that his hands were not tied behind his

back, he had a skull cap on his head. Obviously, law enforcement would look for some signs of a struggle. Any indications of depression or any indications that he wanted to take his life or also indications of how the rope was tied, I suppose, and how he ended up in that tree and anything around that area?

FUENTES: Right. They'll need the full results of the autopsy once that's finished. And again, interview all of the family members and everybody else that knew him to see if there's some other indications of trouble in his life that may have caused him to want to take his own life or may have caused somebody else to want to take it for him.

COOPER: And Charles, we should point a bed sheet was used, whether or not it was his bed sheet, that may also be an important factor for law enforcement.

BLOW: Yes, this whole story makes me want to tread very lightly because we just know so little. I understand the history, I understand the legacy here, but we don't know anything. And we don't know how far up the ground he was, was he able to do it himself, which we've helped to indicate maybe it was a suicide or --

COOPER: The thing about suicide is it's so, in some ways, it's something people don't talk about much. It's something that's so still inexplicable to many people and the family members.

BLOW: Right.

COOPER: So it would be very possible for family members to say, there's absolutely no way this person would commit suicide. And yes, we've seen time and time again, that actually happens.

BLOW: Absolutely.

FUENTES: Anderson, could I ask one more fact? The other thing is that sheriff asked for the FBI to come in. And so, you can have the FBI involvement based just on the request for assistance by a local sheriff who may feel he doesn't have the expertise, even in a standard homicide where they don't suspect a more sinister motive for killing him. So the fact that the FBI is there, yes, the civil rights division is there too, but calling in the FBI is a possibility. It happens all the time in small jurisdictions.

COOPER: I will say, you know, when I first saw this headline online, you know, it obviously draws one's attention. But as you look at the details, I just think, and the reason we are talking about it tonight is I just think it's important to tread very carefully to point out all the things we don't know and what authorities don't know and still need to be investigated.

Tom Fuentes, thank you. Charles blow as well.

Just ahead, breaking news out of Tunisia, new details about how much worse the museum attack in Tunis could have been. Plus, the apparent claimer responsibility from ISIS. Also, the flip flop (INAUDIBLE) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin

Netanyahu wants now says he does want a two-state solution. The reversal and swift reaction from the White House next.


[20:27:50] COOPER: Well, we go in to other shoe to drop in the Tunis museum massacre. And today it did. ISIS apparently claiming responsibility for yesterday's attack in the Bardo Museum in Tunis, warning this is just the beginning. And we can't independently verify that the online audio statement came from ISIS. Twenty-three people lost their lives in the assault by men armed with automatic weapons and we're just now learning from Tunisian authorities they had explosives as well.

Arwa Damon is there in Tunis joins us now.

So the claim of responsibility by ISIS, what do authorities there make of it? Do they believe it?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it seems like they're taking it very seriously at this stage and they most seriously are taking the threats that are being made in that threat more seriously given what has transpired. But one has to remember these individuals carried out these attacks may not have been ISIS members. They may have just been inspired by the group. And that is perhaps what is most disturbing is that people do not need to necessarily be ISIS remembers. ISIS does not need to issue orders. Its supporters out there are proving themselves to be fully capable of carrying out these kinds of attacks. But still, a very murky situation with some other groups who is tied to Al-Qaeda also claiming responsibility at this stage, Anderson.

COOPER: And nine people have already been arrested in connection with the attack. Do we know much about the suspects?

DAMON: Not a lot right now. We do know that four of the nine were, according to the government here, directly linked to the attack. We don't know if the three gunmen still believed to be at large were among those who were detained. We do know however from the president, the two gunmen who were killed were carrying explosives on them.

The president praising the quick response of the Tunisian security forces saying they prevented even more bloodshed from taking place. But this is still is a nation that is very much really trying to cope with what happened and also the potential for even more violence. Remember, this is a country that has upwards of 3,000 foreign fighters in the battlefields alongside ISIS in both Iraq and Syria. Hundreds of them believed to have returned back to this country. So what took plays at the museum behind us right now is something that people fear could happen, again, if the measures to prevent it from happening are not put into place.

COOPER: And do they still believe some people may be on the loose, come of the gunmen form the terrorists?


DAMON: Well, at this stage, at least three of the gunmen are believed to be on the loose and we don't know if among those that the change in government detained are those gunmen are just affiliates of them. We don't really know if this was a cell that's part of a broader ISIS network here or it's just a group of individuals who were perhaps inspired by ISIS.

COOPER: Right.

DAMON: And then wanted to carry out this attack. The government is saying that in the last four weeks, they detained 400 individuals on terrorism charges, but again, nothing substantial. So the population is really tense because they don't know how large the threat is that exists out there.

COOPER: All right. Arwa, I appreciate it. Stay safe. Some late news on the rocky U.S. - Israel relationship. President Obama this evening calling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He offered congratulations on the prime minister's electoral win and reaffirmed America's commitment to a two state solution with the Palestinians. Something Mr. Netanyahu disavowed late in the campaign and recommitted to earlier today. Now, in light of that flip flop, President Obama had a warning. For more now on what it was and why it could be serious, we are joined by Jim Acosta at the White House. So, the fact in this congratulatory phone call took about a day and a half. What should we read into that?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the president did congratulate the prime minister on this reelection victory, Anderson. But the White House doesn't like the way he went about it. A White House official confirms president told Netanyahu in a phone call that the administration will need to reassess its options after the prime minister's comments on a two-state solution with the Palestinians. So, this congratulations comes with consequences.

COOPER: And just to be clear, Netanyahu is the man who - I mean less than a week ago, basically disavowed a two state solution, he now says he's for it?

ACOSTA: Yeah. Simply put, the White House is not buying what Prime Minister Netanyahu is selling today, Anderson. Administration officials are much more focused on what Netanyahu said in the final moments of his reelection campaign when he rejected Palestinian statehood. The White House sees that comment as a key reversal that could damage prospects for Middle East peace. And top aides to the president, we should keep in mind, they are also outraged over this other remark from Netanyahu that Arab voters were heading to the polls in droves, a remark that officials were blasting as racially tinged and undemocratic. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest called that statement a cynical Election Day tactic aimed at marginalizing Arab-Israeli voters.

Netanyahu, he tried to walk all of this back today in an interview, flip-flopping on his flip-flop, but on the Palestinian issue, he now says he supports a two-state solution, but judging by the president's phone call, that's not going to be enough, Anderson.

COOPER: And President Obama said the U.S. needs to reassess, and that's a quote, aspects of the relationship. That doesn't sound like good times ahead or rosy times ahead.

ACOSTA: No, it does not and officials are threatening to allow votes at the United Nations in favor of Palestinian state. That may not sound like a whole lot to people out there, but that's a measure that the U.S. has blocked before time and again. Now, Republicans who invited Netanyahu to speak before Congress before, I guess, all of this went down, the election went down, you know, he went to Congress to speak out against the U.S. nuclear talks with Iran. Republicans are saying, get over it, but Anderson, all indications are here at the White House the president is not over it. He will not be over it for some time.

COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

Just ahead, did the V.A. do enough to save this veteran's life? Richard Miles struggled with PTSD for years before finally killing himself. He reached out to the V.A. days before his body was found frozen in the woods.

Plus, new details tonight about the suspect in the strings of shootings in Arizona that left one person dead.


COOPER: On Monday, the American legion will hold a town hall meeting in Los Angeles for local veterans. Now, the event was sparked by a report on this program by our own Drew Griffin detailing the long waits for appointments veterans are subjected to at the V.A. Greater Los Angeles health care system, the country's largest V.A. system. Drew found that thousands of vets are waiting months to see doctors there. What's more, administrators, may have been hiding wait times and may have misled Congress about exactly how long the waits really are.

Now in other words, the scandal over wait times that Drew uncovered and led to the resignation of V.A. Secretary Eric Shinseki last year apparently may not be over. The V.A. is also facing questions about the care it provides to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress. Our Jake Tapper has reported extensively on this. Tonight, he has the story of a veteran whose loved ones say the V.A. failed him.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I need help. On February 15, Iraq war veteran Richard Miles came to Veterans Administration hospital in Des Moines, Iowa, and told the staff, quote, "I need help." According to the hospital's records. Miles had told friends he was going to check himself in.

He was diagnosed with worsened PTSD, anxiety and insomnia, but Richard Miles was not admitted to the hospital. 5 days later, the 40-year-old who had served three tours in Iraq was found dead in the woods having taken a toxic amount of sleeping pills, his body frozen in the elements. Now, those who loved Richard Miles want to know whether the V.A. did enough for him that February night.

KATIE HOPPER, FRIEND OF RICHARD MILES: That was his cry for help. And it was not taken seriously or received the way it should have been received.

TAPPER: Richard Miles was one of the premiere presenters at the Science Center of Iowa, beloved and quite literally a picture perfect employee.

CURT SIMMONS, RICHARD MILES' FORMER BOSS: He was passionate and knowledgeable about science himself and he went beyond that. His passion extended to sharing that knowledge with others. And as excited as he would get about viewing stars in his own, he was tenfold more excited when he could share that with others.

TAPPER: What this popular Iraq war veteran did not share with most is that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

HOPPER: He knew the date and where he was, you know, when he - when he had shot and killed people.

TAPPER: Katie Hopper is Miles' ex-girlfriend and mother to their daughter, Emmalynn.


TAPPER: She says he left Iraq, but it never left him.

HOPPER: He was very, very aware of what he was doing. He was ending people's lives, even if it was for the greater good.

TAPPER (on camera): And ...

HOPPER: Absolutely.

TAPPER (voice over): Medical records obtained by CNN states that years after Miles' return from Iraq in 2004, he quote, "began to experience depression with suicidal attempts. He recalled seeing dead bodies and often had graphic violent dreams. Friends and family saw Miles struggle with his PTSD but they say he was doing generally OK. Until January when he disappeared. V.A. records show friends called the Iowa V.A. to look for Miles and told the V.A. they were filing a missing persons report with local law enforcement. Miles finally responded days later to his friend, Harry Oler, who had reached out by a text.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wrote back, I didn't mean to get people worried. I just need to spend some time at the hospital to figure things out.

TAPPER: Thankfully, Miles returned and chose to stay with Katie Hopper, but after only a few days, he became restless.

HOPPER: I said, do you feel like you need to get out of the house, do you want to go for a drive, do you want to go for a walk? And he said, no, I'm going to go to the V.A. And I go, right now? Yeah, I'm going to go right now.

TAPPER (on camera): Where must he have been to have taken these steps?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He had to have been in the place where he was going to hurt himself. Mentally. And the thought of that would lead him to want to get help. Because he would be letting down his daughter, his son, his friends, and that was not an option for him.

TAPPER (voice over): On February 15, Miles left several of his belongings with Hopper and went to the hospital. It was a familiar place to the veteran whose medical records show a long history of suicidal acts and thoughts. From 2008 to 2009, Miles was hospitalized four times for PTSD, made two attempts to hang himself, and brought a gun into a separate hospital ward with the plan to kill himself. On February 15th, Miles told the hospital attendant he needed help but doctor's note say he denied feeling suicidal when asked.

HOPPER: He came home about three hours later.

TAPPER (on camera): Were you surprised?

HOPPER: Yes. And I was like, what are you doing here? He goes, I'm done. And I said, what do you mean you're done? I thought you are going to be days or weeks even.

He said, yeah, me too, but they just gave me medication and sent me home and my psychiatrist would follow up with me this week and set up an appointment.

TAPPER (voice over): Miles did not make it that long. He instead walked into these woods where he and Hopper used to go and never came back. After taking the toxic dose of sleeping pills, Miles was found frozen to death in this clearing wearing no jacket, no shoes and most infuriating, with no clear reason why his life had to end like this.

HOPPER: The V.A. failed him. I feel like they failed him.

TAPPER: The V.A. tells CNN that the emergency room staff, quote, "followed proper mental health screening procedures" and that Miles had been given medication he indicated had helped him in the past. They refused to answer any more of our questions citing federal privacy laws. The friends and family of Richard Miles want the V.A. to learn from their tragedy. They want the V.A. to figure out what they could have done differently with Miles so the next veteran is admitted and helped.

(on camera): What do you not have now because this happened?

HOPPER: I don't have a friend. My daughter doesn't have her father. People, he touched so many people. He was so great.

TAPPER (voice over): The Iowa V.A., however, seems more focused on defending itself than on learning from any mistakes. HOPPER: I really - I really do feel as though the V.A. failed him.

And ultimately, I feel like it's kind of on them.


COOPER: So, Jake, I mean if proper procedures were followed in this case, I mean, it's got to be asked, is the V.A. dealing with suicidal veterans adequately enough?

TAPPER: That's a great question, Anderson. Because although there are plenty of suicidal veterans who do get into the V.A. system and access it, this is hardly the first instance like this, this Richard Miles story, where a cry for help is not heard. I've spoken to many experts and they say it's difficult to tell that a veteran is suicidal if he says he is not, though looking back at the Richard Miles case with all the red flags, the missing persons report, the previous suicidal attempts, experts say Richard Miles should have been admitted. Now we also spoke, Anderson, with a whistle blower at the Phoenix V.A. And he said this is a systemic problem. The V.A. is not aggressive enough when it comes to at-risk veterans.

COOPER: Such just a tragic story. Jake, appreciate it. Thank you.

TAPPER: Thank you.

COOPER: Again, that American Legion town hall meeting we mentioned at the top of Jake's report is on Monday. Drew Griffin is reporting - he will be there. So will we. We'll keep you posted.

Up next, spring starts tomorrow, but it does not mean winter is over.


COOPER: Snowstorm is scheduled to hit the East Coast dumping several inches of snow in places that have already seen more than enough. We've got the forecast. Also ahead, a wild police chase. The suspect on a motorcycle taunting police with stunts, the whole thing captured on camera.


COOPER: The calendar says the spring starts tomorrow, apparently no one told the weather. Tonight, another snowstorm is taking aim at the northeast. Winter storm watches and warnings already in place. Winter storm watches and warnings, that's right. I said. A wide swap from West Virginia to south eastern New York. It's expected to get the worst of it. Some areas could see three to six inches of snowfall. Nothing like that to put a damper on the vernal equinox after what seems to many like the worst winter ever. Jennifer Gray looks back at how bad it really was.


JENNIFER GRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For much of the country, spring can't come soon enough. From layers of winter close to snow shovels to all the snow days, people are over it. If Buffalo was any indication of how this winter would shape up, we would have considered ourselves warned. In November, a narrow band of lake effect snow dumped seven feet of snow in just four days. And that was before winter even began.



MARKIEWICZ: It's too much, it's just really a lot of snow here and we're closed in here. It's not an open area. We can just fling the snow anywhere.

GRAY: An army of front loaders came to haul the snow out of the city working round the clock. Three days later, temperatures were in the mid-60s.

It wasn't just northern cities to face winter's wrath. The Deep South suffered as well from Dallas to Nashville to Lexington. The South was in the deep freeze. Earlier this month, South of Louisville, Kentucky, I-65 turned into a block of ice. Causing trucks to jackknife and backing up traffic for miles. Motorists were stranded in their cars for up to 20 hours.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have now been sitting in this same spot for over four hours.

GRAY: But the big winter this season is clearly Boston. People there shoveled through the snowiest season on record with 108.6 inches of snow so far. February was their snowiest month on record. And to add to the misery, it didn't get above freezing for 15 straight days that month. They aren't finished yet. More snow is in the forecast on the first day of spring.

With all of the focus on the east, winter has nearly forgotten about the west. California has had one of their warmest winters on record and one ski resort in the Tahoe area had to close earlier this month after only receiving ten percent of its normal snowfall. But they're not alone. Globally, this was the warmest winter on record.


COOPER: Jennifer Gray joins me now. So, tomorrow is the official start of spring. I mean, it sounds like a lot of people are still going to be stuck in winter.

GRAY: Yeah, 6:45 p.m. Eastern time. That's the official start of spring and a lot of people are going to experience rain, clouds, and yes, even snow. So, we do have this spring storm that is brewing. It is going to start as rain across the Carolinas into Virginia. D.C. could even see a mix and then snow for places in Pennsylvania that includes Philadelphia, New York City. It is going to be a fast mover. If there's any good news in all of this, it isn't going to last long. It is going to be out of here by Saturday morning, but we could pick up several inches of snow. Four to six inches across portions of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia could see about the same. For New York, we are looking to two to four inches, local amounts even higher and not only the snow, we are going to see the very cold air. Boston may not get the snow with this, but they are going to get the chilly temperatures. Highs only in the 30s for tomorrow. However, most of the cities in New England will be back in the 40s, Anderson, by Saturday.

COOPER: All right, so I'm going to be in Boston Saturday night. You are saying no snow, but just cold.

GRAY: Yes. It should be.

COOPER: They've had enough snow. All right, Jennifer, thanks very much. Let's get the latest on the other stories we're following. Amara Walker has a "360" bulletin. Amara?

AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we are learning more about the suspects in the shootings in Mesa, Arizona, that left one person dead and five injured. Ryan Elliott Giroux has been in prison twice on felony convictions including attempted aggravated assault. Police are still looking for a motive in the shootings.

Secret Service director Joe Clancy says reports of two agents crashing into barricades at the White House are wrong. He told the Senate panel that surveillance video showed the car was going one or two miles an hour and was not damaged. Clancy said some footage was last, because it's taped over every 72 hours. But he's trying to retrieve it.

Prince Charles and Camilla wrapped up their trip to Washington with a jam-packed day that included a meeting with President Obama at the White House. Earlier, they visited a school and a veterans' retirement house.

And check this out. A man was arrested in southern California after leading police on an hour long chase through two counties on his motorcycle. The local news catching it all on camera including the stunts the man did you just saw there like standing up on this speeding motorcycle? At times, he was going more than 100 miles an hour, then at one point during the chase, he stopped in a cul-de-sac to adjust his ear buds. And then he took off again. And as you saw almost hit the door of a police car. Insane.

COOPER: Oh, just a moron. Maybe just a moron. Anyway.

WALKER: And he's lucky he didn't hurt himself or kill anybody.

COOPER: Yeah, that's for sure. Amara, thanks very much. Something coming up to make you smile at the end of the day. "The Ridiculist" is next.


COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." And tonight, we have a lawsuit from the bestselling - of all times. Hall and Oates. Daryl Hall and John Oates are suing a Brooklyn based company in federal court. It's a company called Early Bird Food, which is selling a type of granola called - you guessed it - Hall and Oats. And the pop - oh, well, they can't go for that. No can do. Watch that bowl. They'll chew you up. And some might say a lawsuit is going too far, but you know, don't matter anyway. Hall and Oates previously came to an agreement with a different cereal company that sells hall and oats. So, if you live in one of the five states, where it's available, it turns out you can't rely on the oats in honey. And I think making deal is the way to go because to me there really is no better union of interest in '80s music and breakfast cereal. I, for one, would love to have a nice big bowl of Depechios, Frankenberry goes to Hollywood, Kashi Gugo, Cheerio speed wagon, cool and the bran, Raisin Duran. Go Go Puffs. Musley and the Banshees. It really the possibility is endless. I could go on and on. Just think instead of Tony the Tiger, the frosted flakes mascot could be Deaf Leopard. I mean their biggest hit is pour some sugar on me. Why hasn't anyone thought of this before? I get to trademark this. Perhaps, '80s music isn't your thing or maybe you are not a fan of cereal, in which case the Olden grams won't do for you. How about '80s movies? You can still get your recommended daily allowance of pop culture nostalgia, thanks to this new campaign.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is no better start to the day than eggs for breakfast except maybe eggs with a side of.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, ha-ha. Hi. Bacon. What are you doing in my kitchen?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, nobody knows eggs better than Bacon.


COOPER: Kevin Bacon and eggs. Add two scoops of Hall and Oates. And everybody is ready to cut foot loose. And now, we're not going to do in 2.5 minute segment on Hall and Oates without some tasty vintage video. Please enjoy.




COOPER: I'm sorry to cut it off. The sax solo, legally we only had to use a short clip. We don't want to actually pay for the thing.

We know Mr. Hall and Mr. Oates are not afraid to sue, and you never know, private eyes could be watching me, watching me, watching me on The Ridiculist.