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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Baltimore Authorities Investigate Police Custody Death. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired April 20, 2015 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:00:08]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin with the breaking news in the national lead.

Any minute now, we expect to hear from the mayor of Baltimore, and also from the chief or some representative of the Baltimore Police Department about a case that left many in the community both baffled and outraged. How is it that a man seen on this video being taken into custody, heard wailing as he was dragged into a police van, paddy wagon, if you will, how is it that he ended up with a spinal injury less than an hour later?

He died over the weekend. Freddie Gray died, specifically, at the hospital yesterday one week after his arrest. All the while, protesters and family of Freddie Gray are demanding answers from the city of Baltimore and specifically from Baltimore City police. They want to know what happened while Freddie Gray was in custody, why he was arrested in the first place, how he ended up in a coma, how he ended up dead.

Those answers have been hard to come by.

CNN's Joe Johns is live in Baltimore and joins me now as we wait for this press conference to begin.

Joe, so many questions, but, of course, the big one, what happened between Freddie Gray's trip to the police station and then the call for an ambulance after he was so seriously wounded?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: It's a big question, Jake. The mayor and the police commissioner are expected to try address some of these questions in the news conference in a few minutes.

What we do know is I spoke to the commissioner earlier today at Johns Hopkins University and he said they do expect to present video which might add to this conversation. I was in the room a couple minutes ago. They were queuing up video, apparently a street camera near Baltimore. Not clear what it shows, but hopefully it will add a little bit more deal to a story that has really roiled the city of Baltimore.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JOHNS (voice-over): Police say Freddie Gray was stopped on suspicion of criminal activity apparently drug-related, but that doesn't explain all that happened here. Camera phone video and audio on the street at the time of Gray's arrest paint a disturbing picture.

He's on the ground. He's screaming in apparent pain. He's being taken into custody, legs limp. A woman is describing an apparent problem with his legs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His leg broken. You all dragging him like that.

JOHNS: He's taken to a hospital, where he went into a coma and then he die as week later.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: We're going to interrupt this piece now.

Here is the mayor of Baltimore and others from the police department. Let's listen in.

STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE (D), MAYOR OF BALTIMORE, MARYLAND: Good afternoon.

Thank you for joining us today. Shortly, I am going to turn things over to Commissioner Batts and the Baltimore Police Department, who will walk you through some of the latest developments related to the death of Mr. Freddie Gray.

Before we begin, I want to, again, offer my most sincere condolences to Mr. Gray's family, and to his friends. I also want to reiterate our commitment to moving as quickly as possible to determine exactly how his death occurred.

Earlier today, the commissioner and I met with community leaders to discuss this case, and I'm looking forward to speaking with Mr. Gray's family soon.

One of the things that we discussed was the importance of our efforts to continue to work together, as we determine everything that transpired before Mr. Gray died.

Many of the people in that room have worked with us over the years to continue reforming our police department. And they have worked tirelessly to help bridge the gap between the police and the community. This has not been easy work. It has been very difficult to overcome decades of mistrust, but together I believe we have made great strides forward.

However, it's still very clear that we have much more work to do. I will never stop believing that we are up to this challenge. Baltimore's made progress before, and we have overcome difficult challenges in our city. And I know that we will do it again.

As we move forward with this investigation, it is important that we remain one community, and I'm encouraged by how peaceful the demonstrations have been. As we move forward, I continue to encourage those residents (AUDIO GAP) it is important that we remain one community.

[16:05:08]

And I'm encouraged by how peaceful the demonstrations have been. As we move forward, I continue to encourage those residents who wish to voice their frustrations to remain peaceful. Our community is experiencing a great deal of trauma.

And none of us get the answers that we need or that the Gray family deserves by resorting to violence. This is a very, very tense time for Baltimore City, and I understand the community's frustration. I understand it because I'm frustrated. I'm angry that we are here again, that we have had to tell another mother that their child is dead.

I'm frustrated that -- not only that we're here, but that we don't have all of the answers. I want to know why the officers pursued Mr. Gray. I want to know if the proper procedures were followed. I want to know what steps need to be taken for accountability.

And if that happens, and the facts tell us what we need to happen, that's exactly -- you know, we need to be able to follow those facts. And that's exactly why my focus remains on providing prompt and comprehensive understanding of this incident. Some information has already come to light. Some of the information that is out in the universe is true.

We also know some of the information that is out there is rumor. But if there is one piece of information I want to speak about and speak about directly is the notion that Mr. Gray was originally pursued because he may have been in possession of a knife.

We know that having a knife is not necessarily a crime. It is not necessarily probable cause to chase someone. So we still have questions. And we're moving forward with our investigation accordingly. I take very seriously my obligation of transparency for both the family and the community at large.

However, we will balance that obligation with our obligation to ensure that proper -- a proper and thorough investigation is undertaken. We will provide the community with all of the answers that the community -- that the community deserves. We will identify appropriate accountability if necessary, and we will continue to be aggressive and thorough with our reforms in the Baltimore Police Department.

With that, I would like to turn things over to Commissioner Batts, who will give an update on our progress in the investigation, and he will address some of the immediate reforms the we have taken while our investigation continues.

Commissioner?

ANTHONY BATTS, BALTIMORE POLICE COMMISSIONER: Thank you, Madam Mayor. As I said yesterday at the news conference, I shared the fact that I'm

clear that a mother has lost her child. I'm clear that a member of our community is not here anymore. I'm also clear that my goal is interaction between the police department and the community. The goal is to walk home safe for everyone.

I am asking for calm and to allow the process to work its way through. The steps that will take place is that the police department will conclude their investigation or our investigation by next Friday, not this coming Friday, Friday after next. At the conclusion of that investigation, it will be forwarded to the state's attorney's office, to which they will make a ruling whether they will file the case or not file the case.

At the conclusion of that, there will be an independent review board that I will call. This is the third such independent reviews that we have brought people in from the outside to take an honest look at our investigation as a whole. We are a community that's on the edge right now.

Our voices need to be heard. The community's voices need to be heard, and the most part is that we need to listen. We, too, are part of this community, and we hear, I hear the outrage. I hear the concern. And I also hear the fear. I also ask for the media to also report in a responsible way, because we are on edge as a city, and I need your help to make sure that we get this out in the proper way.

As people express their very real frustration in the coming days, we ask only that it is done peacefully. My model, my goal, my focus is a reference for human life. That's in our policies. It's in my statements. I make it clear that we will have a reverence for human life.

[16:10:17]

But it goes beyond the mere actions, including the manner in which we conduct ourselves is paramount. As we move with urgency, and I do say when we move with a sense of urgency, in our investigation, we will examine every piece of evidence possible, and we will go wherever the evidence takes us.

Areas of concerns for me, and the deputy commissioner will cover some of these, what did the autopsy come back with? And that happened today. And what is the preliminary findings of that autopsy? Was the gentleman seat-belted in the van, per policy, as we relate? Was there a delay in requesting the paramedics at the time that we saw that there may be some serious issues going on?

We will show you the video from the CCTV that was referenced and make sure that you get a copy of that and any other video that you wish to see. Was there any evidence of a use of force? Was there a Tasing that took place out there? Did the body show any use of force of Tasing? Was there any broken bones on Mr. Gray? Was there any evidence of kicking, punching, strikes of any type upon his body?

Was there any evidence of the voice box being crushed or any damage done to the neck area? Was there any internal trauma to the organs at all? Was there any vertebrae that were broken in a manner that would cause the severe issues that we are dealing with today?

We have all seen the videos and those that have not been seen, we will make sure that you get a copy. The actions of our officers appear to be calm. They do not appear to be angry or overbearing when we watch the video. They have no objection to the filming when it's taking place. That doesn't mean or excuse that nothing happened. It just recognizes the facts that are on the video.

Other videos that you will see from different angles will show the same location, which leaves all of us seeking more answers. As this investigation continues, we take corrective action whenever and wherever it is necessary. If we see policies that don't make sense, or are out of date on antiquated, they will be changed quickly and immediately.

If we find a procedure or a process that was handled incorrectly, we will hold people accountable for that. We will train all of our officers to make sure it is remedied immediately. As a part of an ongoing investigation, I am ordering and I have ordered a number of policies to the reviewed and rewritten effective immediately best on national best practices.

This includes our in-custody transportation procedures. It also includes the policies that address people in custody requiring medical attention. Any time someone requests medical attention in any context, immediately, we are to respond to that.

I have directed our professional development and training academy to immediately start training tomorrow to certify all of our officers who operate transport vehicles. We will ensure that they have the correct training. We will validate that they have been trained on first-aid, CPR, the correct way to seat and house a prisoner in the transportation of a prisoner and the request of any medical attention whatsoever.

As we continue the investigation, we will identify any other issues that come to light and bring them to your attention. If I haven't made it too clearly now, we're being as transparent as we possibly can. We will be open, we will answer questions, we will bring this information to the public.

We will continue to keep the public and Mr. Gray's family informed at every step of this investigation as we are able. We guarantee transparency and, as the mayor said, we also guarantee accountability. But, at the same time, we are not rushing to judgment before we have all the facts that came into play.

I have directed my command staff to ensure that every resource available is dedicated to the accurate, transparent and timely resolution of this investigation. We have started a new task force. The task force to review this is part of our Force Investigation Team that investigates all force.

Our crime lab will be a part of this task force. Our homicide investigators will be a part of this task force. Our training academy will also be a part of the task force that will bring to the state's attorney's office in the week after next the conclusion of all of these revelations.

And, again to Mr. Gray's family, I extend my condolences, to the citizens of Baltimore, we will get better, and to the men and women in charge -- the men and women who are dedicated to keeping the streets safe in Baltimore, we stand ready to answer questions.

Deputy Commissioner Rodriguez.

JERRY RODRIGUEZ, BALTIMORE DEPUTY POLICE COMMISSIONER: Thank you, Commissioner. And thank you, Madam Mayor, both for your leadership in these times. It certainly makes our direction in what we need to do much clearer for us. My name, you heard, is deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez. And I'm in charge of the Professional Standards and Accountability Bureau.

I would like to join madam mayor and police commissioner in extending my deepest, deepest sympathies to the Gray family. Our mission at the direction of the police commission sis and has always been, without prejudice, partiality to seek the truth and uncover the facts. And we are committed to do that.

As you know, my bureau investigates all major our cruises of force by officers, or as in this case, any in-custody death resulting from officers' actions.

I want to make it very clear: we go wherever the facts, wherever the evidence takes us, and we will do that again. We will do so while demonstrating as much transparency as possible without compromising the investigation or violating any of the laws.

There is a lot of misinformation in public as has been stated earlier. We want to clear up some of the confusions that may exist, and in doing so, we're going to walk you through the timeline of events that led to Mr. Gray's loss of life. We also want to share with you the progress in the investigation, our timeline, our completion due date and how we're working in partnership with the state's attorney's office. We also want to share with you that the current state status of the involved officers as we have been able to interview and determine them is that they are currently suspended.

As we walk you through the timeline to date, I want to talk a little bit about some of the things that are out there. First of all, we're going to show you the close the circuit TV that the police department has. And I want you all to listen to what I'm about to say. It is our video that has been unedited, that is raw. We are not in the business of hiding facts. We will show you that video and provide you with a copy of it.

We will be looking specifically at our actions from the point that we came into contact with Mr. Gray up until the time we requested medical assistance. Specifically, did we miss any warnings, should we have acted sooner? Should we have acted in any different manner?

As was discussed earlier, the autopsy was done today, and as we have stated before, that we had no evidence, physical or video or statements of any use of force, there was no physical bodily injury that we saw nor was it evident in the autopsy of Mr. Gray. None of his limbs were broken. He did suffer a very tragic injury to his spinal cord, which resulted in his death.

What we don't know, and what we need to get to, is how that injury occurred. We want to get there, but we want to do it very carefully, very thorough and get to the truth of the matter. As the investigation stands today we have interviewed all of those involved. We have two individuals that we need to interview.

As we stated earlier, we're working with the medical examiners. I had folks from my bureau, investigators, homicide experts, at the examination today with the M.E.'s office.

And our goal, our promise to you is, that that investigation will be done by a week from this Friday, and we submit it in its entirety to the district attorney's office for their review.

[16:20:00] At that point, we will work to provide any additional information that they may ask for, if any, in order to help them come to the conclusion. I believe we have a couple of, let's show the CCTV cameras.

I know. There's a billboard there with the --

(INAUDIBLE)

RODRIGUEZ: Again. You will all be getting a copy of this video. It's important to note that our CCTV is in a pan mode, unless it is controlled by an individual. At this point it was not, and that why you see portions where the video scans, make come back around, but by that time, several seconds could have passed. The only time the video will focus on a particular location or person or corner is if the investigator or the officer at the other side of the camera physically takes control of that camera and stops it from rotating.

(CCTV VIDEO PLAYS)

RODRIGUEZ: We have only the very best equipment. It will catch on in just a second.

But it was important for us not only to show you that video, to dispel the rumors but we'll give you a copy of it. That's right from our cameras. We have many of the other same videos that you have seen, the ones taken from different vantage points by members in the community.

As soon as that's over, I will walk you through the timeline.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) how many video cameras in that area (INAUDIBLE)?

RODRIGUEZ: This is the only one that I am aware of that we know that we have found that have captured any of the incident, and it was very little, of our CCTV cameras.

REPORTER: How long (INAUDIBLE)

RODRIGUEZ: I don't know the exact -- we provided everything that was on there. You're going to get a copy of it. We're going to have a copy for all of you.

REPORTER: But there are other cameras out in that area, correct?

RODRIGUEZ: There's approximately 600 cameras, over 600 city- wide, yes, ma'am.

REPORTER: But at that (INAUDIBLE)?

RODRIGUEZ: I'll get that information.

Lieutenant, do you know what corner?

OFFICER: 1600 --

RODRIGUEZ: How many do we have in that corner?

OFFICER: There's only one camera at that corner. (INAUDIBLE).

RODRIGUEZ: Say that again, please?

OFFICER: (INAUDIBLE)

RODRIGUEZ: So there's only one camera on that corner. We have over 600 citywide.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

RODRIGUZ: That is correct. We have -- say that again?

REPORTER: Which is closer than this?

RODRIGUEZ: We only had one camera that captured any of it and that was this camera here and we'll answer some of those specific afterwards.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) is this that camera?

RODRIGUEZ: Lieutenant, what's the exact corner of that camera?

OFFICER: This camera, 1600 (INAUDIBLE)

REPORTER: That's the cross street is --

RODRIGUEZ: Let me -- let me go through the timeline so you understand the locations.

Lieutenant, give us the exact corner of this camera again.

OFFICER: 1600 (INAUDIBLE)

REPORTER: Do you have the cross street? Or no?

REPORTER: There's also a camera at (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

REPORTER: Clear up which cameras.

MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE (D), BALTIMORE: We'll get you that information once we're done.

REPORTER: OK.

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: He just has the address. He doesn't have the cross street.

RODRIGUEZ: Yes. So, we're going to go through the -- the timeline and you have had a copy of this timeline before. I'm going elaborate a little more.

This incident occurred at approximately 08:39:12 at North and Mount. The reason we give specific times is because we could validate this time because something was keyed or said on the police radio that has a time stamp on it.

[16:25:00] There's how we can attribute a time to it.

A lieutenant begins pursuing Mr. Gray after making eye contact with two individuals, one of which is Mr. Gray. Both males take off running southbound from that direction.

At approximately 08:39:52, at 1700 Presbury, two blocks south of North and Mount, one of the units gets on, said the address and states, "I got him".

At 08:40:12, a unit states, "We've got one", and confirms the address of 1700 Pres Street. He has stopped Gray at this time.

The information we have is that Mr. Gray gave up without the use of force. There was an officer attempting to stop officer Gray that took his taser out, preparatory using it but never deployed the taser. That has been verified by downloading the information on the taser and also by the physical evidence on Mr. Gray's body, the lack of taser deployment.

At 08:42:52, a wagon is requested for transport. At that point, Mr. Gray asks for an inhaler.

At approximately 08:46:02, the driver of the van, of the transport van, believes that Mr. Gray is acting irate in the back.

At about 8:46:12 at Mount and Baker, one block to the South and East, a unit asks the wagon to stop so that the paperwork can be completed, and at that point, Gray is placed in leg irons and put back in the wagon. We have several witnesses from the community that we have interviewed with regards to this particular stop.

At approximately 08:54:02, the wagon clears Mount Street heading towards Central Booking going southbound.

Approximately five minutes elapse, and at 08:59:52, there's a request at Druid Hill and Dolphin, which is east of Mount and Baker. The person driving the van asks for an additional unit to check on his prisoner. That is Mr. Gray.

Part of what our investigation will do, there is no video of these stops, is to identify exactly what was going on, what was said by Mr. Gray, what was relayed by the officers and what actions if any we took, what actions we should have taken.

At 1600 North Avenue, at Pennsylvania, which is east of Dolphin and Druid Hill, there is a, another arrest, and there's a request for a wagon.

The wagon leaves -- before the wagon leaves, there's some communication with Mr. Gray. And, again, we need assess Mr. Gray's condition, how we responded, were we able to act accordingly? At that point, they travel to the western district with the individual that's in the wagon, the other suspect, in addition to Mr. Gray.

Once they get to the western district, at approximately 09:24:32 is when a medic is called.

We know the injuries that Mr. Gray sustained. We know the final outcome of Mr. Gray is unfortunately he passed away. What we don't have at this point is how Mr. Gray sustained those injuries.

We are working tirelessly as the commissioner stated. We have appointed folks to our task force that will work solely on this. We will work -- continue to work closely with the state's attorney's office, to get to the fact to get to the truth.

We have also plotted here on this map the various stops. We could also provide that to you. With that, if there are any other questions --

(INAUDIBLE)