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THE SITUATION ROOM
Baltimore Protest; American Hostage Killed in U.S. Drone Strike; Interview With South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. Aired 18-19:00p ET
Aired April 23, 2015 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: hostages killed. How did the U.S. fail to know that an American and another captive, an Italian, were inside a terrorist compound when a drone opened fire? President Obama says the buck stops with him.
Al Qaeda's loss. U.S. strikes also killed two Americans who turned to terror. We're talking a closer look at their roles in carrying out Osama bin Laden's legacy.
And heated protests. We are live from the streets of Baltimore for new rallies against the police there after the officers union likened demonstrators to a lynch mob. I will be talk to go a lawyer for the family of Freddie Gray, the suspect who died in police custody, which has ignited outrage.
And dash cam evidence. Stand by to see the video at the center of a new lawsuit over the shooting of a suspect on a bicycle, an unarmed suspect shot by a sheriff's deputy.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
This is CNN breaking news.
KEILAR: We're following two breaking stories.
Maryland State Troopers are on alert as a new protest unfolds on the streets of Baltimore over the death of a suspect after his arrest by local police.
Also breaking, U.S. counterterrorism operations are under review after President Obama publicly apologized for a fatal mistake. Two hostages, an American and an Italian, were killed in a U.S. attack on an al Qaeda compound. Sources tell CNN it was a drone strike. The White House says two American al Qaeda operatives are also dead. One was hit in the strike that killed the hostages, the other in a later, separate attack.
It's all raising new questions about America's drone program, intelligence failures and the timing of this announcement. We have two prominent U.S. senators, Lindsey Graham and Angus King, here to talk with us. And our correspondents and analysts also are standing by with all of the breaking news.
First, though, to our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto -- Jim.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, this was a fairly spectacular intelligence failure here. You have one drone strike in January, January 15, where you unknowingly kill an American and Italian hostage as well as an American member of al Qaeda there, but you didn't know he was there, then four days later another drone strike that kills another al Qaeda leader, also an American, Adam Gadahn.
We now know the CIA inspector general will be inspecting this, investigating this. But this raises questions not just about this operation, but the integrity of the drone program as a whole.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): It was in this mountainous border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan that a U.S. drone strike killed two western hostages held by al Qaeda, including one American, Warren Weinstein, abducted in Pakistan in 2011.
The al Qaeda compound had been under surveillance for hundreds of hours. What the U.S. did not know was that Weinstein and the Italian, Giovanni Lo Porto, were being held and hidden inside.
In this proof of life video, Weinstein, an aid worker, pleaded for his freedom.
WARREN WEINSTEIN, HOSTAGE: It seems that I have been totally abandoned and forgotten.
SCIUTTO: Today, President Obama apologized for a fatal mistake.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We believed that this was an al Qaeda compound, that no civilians were present, and that capturing these terrorists was not possible.
SCIUTTO: Weinstein's wife in a statement blamed his captors for his death, but also demanded answers from Washington, saying: "We do understand that the U.S. government will be conducting an independent investigation of the circumstances. We look forward to the results of that investigation."
Killed in the same attack was al Qaeda leader Ahmed Farouq. Farouq, also an American, was the deputy head of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, a new branch of the terror group that attempted to hijack Pakistani naval vessels last September.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the framework of America's war on so- called terror. SCIUTTO: Killed in another airstrike in January, American al
Qaeda operative and propagandist Adam Gadahn, originally from California.
OBAMA: Our initial assessment indicates that this operation was fully consistent with the guidelines under which we conduct counterterrorism efforts in the region, which has been our focus for years, because it is the home of al Qaeda's leadership.
SCIUTTO: Little solace for families who had hoped desperately for a much better outcome.
SCIUTTO: U.S. officials tell me there are no bodies, there's no DNA evidence. This was the result of a broader assessment of circumstantial evidence, and I'm told that just this month it was a crucial final piece of evidence that led the intelligence community to include that Weinstein, Lo Porto, and the others were killed and it was only yesterday that senior administration officials delivered that news, Brianna, to the families.
KEILAR: All right, Jim Sciutto, thank you so much.
The White House says that U.S. intelligence officials believed with near certainty that were not any hostages at the targeted compound. They were obviously wrong.
Let's now get more on this, on the administration's take on this from our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta -- Jim.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, it's never a good day at the White House when the president says mistakes were made. But that's what he said today. President Obama said he authorized the disclosure of this operation as soon as his national security team was certain that these hostages were the accidental victims of this drone strike last January.
Today, the president, as you have been saying, personally apologized to the families of those hostages, American Warren Weinstein Italian aide worker Giovanni Lo Porto. Mr. Obama also made phone calls yesterday to Weinstein's widow and the Italian prime minister.
As Jim was saying, this all unfolded back in January when the CIA conducted that drone strike on that suspected compound near the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. That strike, we should point out, was ordered by counterterrorism officials, not the president, after what officials say was hundreds of hours of surveillance.
Still, after all that, the White House said no -- intelligence officials said they had no idea hostages were in this compound. And after the operation, a senior administration official said they had indication Weinstein was dead back in February, but only confirmed his death within the last several days. Here is what the president had to say earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is a cruel and bitter truth that, in the fog of war generally and our fight against terrorists specifically, mistakes, sometimes deadly mistakes, can occur.
But one of the things that sets America apart from other nations, one of the things that makes us exceptional, is our willing to confront squarely our imperfections and to learn from our mistakes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: While the White House is not using the word drones in talking about this operation, aides are defending these kind of air assaults, noting those two American terrorists, Ahmed Farouq and Adam Gadahn, were killed in these strikes.
The president has ordered a review of these strikes. We also understand the CIA's inspector general will be on the case, as well as the Intelligence Committees in both the House and the Senate. The White House confirmed today, Brianna, that the hostages' families will be compensated by the U.S. government for their losses.
But after so many months and years of the White House really standing by the use of these drones, there's really no indication that they're going to step away from that. As Josh Earnest said earlier today at the White House briefing, it's not like they can conduct an Osama bin Laden operation every time they want to take out a terrorist. These drone strikes will continue, Brianna.
KEILAR: That's right. He said he's not confirming that this was, indeed, a drone strike, which we hear from so many officials.
ACOSTA: That's right.
KEILAR: Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks.
And joining me now to talk more about this is Senator Lindsey Graham. He's a leading Republican on the Armed Services Committee. And we should mention he's also a potential presidential candidate.
So we are scrutinizing of course every word that you say. All right, here we go.
So the president said mistakes were made.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Yes.
KEILAR: Do you agree? And who made them, do you think?
GRAHAM: One, I want to tell the president and his team, I do not blame you. I blame al Qaeda for this tragic loss of innocent life. They're the bad guys. Look at the program. Learn from these mistakes and press on with this program. It has helped keep this nation safe. I do not blame President Obama. I do not blame the intelligence
community. Let's learn from these mistakes. I blame the people that kidnapped these two men.
KEILAR: He said, and we heard from the White House today, protocols were followed.
KEILAR: Everything that was supposed to have been done was done. So now they're taking a look at protocols.
We spoke earlier today with Adam Schiff, a Democrat in the House, and he says he's not even taking that necessarily at face value. He wants to make sure that protocols were followed.
GRAHAM: All I can tell Adam, who I like a lot, look at the protocols, but this is a war. We're fighting a war. And name a war that has been conducted on behalf of the United States where we have not had collateral damage.
We have killed American prisoners in enemies' hands before because we didn't know that the troop ship had prisoners on it. At the end of the day, this is a tough war we're fighting. You're having to make judgment calls. We're trying our very best not to kill innocent people. But if we do not go after these guys and make them afraid, keep their heads down, they are coming back here.
KEILAR: I think Americans are certainly familiar with the fact that in some instances there will be collateral damage. You can't wage a perfect war.
But I also think a lot of people are asking if more should have been more done to get Warren Weinstein released? Walking away from the White House briefing today, you would have thought that so much has been done. And yet we have heard from people who have been looking into this that essentially he may have been given up on.
GRAHAM: I don't know what efforts we made to secure the release of these two guys, but I do know this.
GRAHAM: They're in the hands -- they were in the hands of al Qaeda in an ungoverned part of the world.
And we can't send Navy SEALs teams in every time, because it risks their lives. And the drone program has killed a lot of bad guys trying to hurt us. And, unfortunately, at times we have collateral damage.
As to the two American al Qaeda collaborators, they got what they deserved. And if you're an American citizen thinking about joining al Qaeda, under the law of war, you're subject to being killed and captured. You do so at your own peril.
KEILAR: All right, Senator Graham, stay with us you for just a moment.
We're going to turn to Baltimore now. We have live pictures coming in. And you can see we have -- it appears that perhaps arrests are being made. Certainly we see protesters there scuffling with police and we see an arrest vehicle.
Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd. He is on the ground.
Brian, can you give us a sense of what's going on there?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, this crowd just got very agitated because the police just arrested someone and put them in this paddy wagon.
And when they saw that, they saw the police dragging a man -- not dragging, but escorting him across the street and putting him in the van, they got very agitated. They started swarming the van. The police have been pretty measured in their response, just kind of holding their ground and just doing kind of this gesture to push the crowd back.
Let's come over here. I'm not sure what's going on over here. They're basically confronting the police, yelling at them over this arrest. It seems to be a...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back up, please. Back up, please.
TODD: ... of one protesters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back up.
TODD: But the crowd is getting very agitated. They just threw something at the police van here.
So the tensions are really rising on the street tonight. Seem to have held their ground a little bit, but this police van is getting out of here. And some objects are being thrown at police. And here they just got another man.
We're being -- easy, guys.
We're being pushed. If you can see what's going on, when they try to arrest someone, they are being swarmed by these protesters.
OK. OK, ma'am, thank you.
And some objects are being thrown. I'm not sure why that man was arrested. Didn't see what he allegedly did. But when they try to arrest anyone regarding these protests, Brianna, you can see what happens here.
Police forming a cordon behind me, the crowd very, very agitated. We were just walking up the street with them. They had surrounded a couple of police vehicles and pounded on them, but that's really the extent of everything they did at that point. Once they saw this one man being arrested, put in the van, then this other one being arrested, they got very, very agitated.
We have some objects being thrown here. It's a very angry crowd.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's going on?
KEILAR: OK, Brian Todd, stay there on the ground. Be careful. Please keep your eye on what's going on there. We want to you stay safe.
We have been seeing a number of objects there flying from the aerials and also just in the shots behind you. We're going to bring Brian back in, in a moment.
But, first I want to get to Cedric Alexander. He's standing by to talk with us.
Cedric, you were watching these pictures. What do you think?
CEDRIC ALEXANDER, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION OF BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT EXECUTIVES: Well, clearly, it has all the sights and sounds of a situation that's getting to be out of control.
And I would hope that the crowd there will settle down and give this -- give this investigation an opportunity to come forth. But people are growing very edgy there, clearly, in Baltimore. But I'm in hope that the city will work its way through this tonight.
KEILAR: OK. Cedric, you, of course, are the president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.
Stay with us as we bring Brian Todd back in from -- he's there on the ground.
And, Brian, this is developing just as we speak here. Give us a sense of what you're seeing behind us. Obviously, the media is flocking to this ayes, where police are creating essentially a human wall as protesters have become upset over the arrest of protesters.
TODD: That's right, Brianna.
The crowd has now moved on from the scene of those two arrests. They really had a tense confrontation with police a moment ago. They have decided now to move down the street. We are walking down the street with them, still very, very agitated, this crowd. They're very angry, clearly very passionate over the whole Freddie Gray case. But it's the arrest of these two people that just occurred that has agitated them.
And it just -- I'm not exactly sure exactly what led to that arrest. There have been objects thrown. Something clearly got the police involved in trying to apprehend at least two suspects that we saw. So we're not exactly sure what led to those arrests. But you see
someone just climbed on top of the police car ahead of us there. They have been swarming police cars and kind of pounding on them, but not doing any real damage. So, every time they see a police presence here, they are really in the mood for confrontation.
KEILAR: Brian, as you listen to protesters there, do you get a sense -- what are they saying to you?
TODD: Well, they just get a -- they give you a really palpable sense of their anger over this case and of the -- what they see as a continuation of police brutality in the city that has been going on for many years.
We have talked about the lawsuits that the city has settled over the past several years totaling millions of dollars, lawsuits over police brutality. These people say that this Freddie Gray case is just part of that pattern. Now, the police say that they have made a lot of reforms over the past several years, that they're retraining police to be just more responsible on the street.
But, clearly, it's not to the satisfaction of these people.
Just seeing some people running ahead of us. I'm not sure what's got them a little more agitated. We're trying to follow as fast as we can. Our photojournalist, Mark Walz, and I putting in some miles tonight, as we did last night -- last night these crowds, we were with them for four hours. They just marched several miles through this city. It looks, Brianna, like they are really of a mind to do that again.
KEILAR: OK, Brian Todd, stand by.
I want to bring in CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes.
Tom, you're watching this. How do you handle a situation like this, considering right now this is daylight and soon we will be heading into the evening hours, and I would assume that this could become even more ratcheted up?
TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It looks like it's going to get worse, Brianna.
And I think the problem here is that you have members of that crowd that aren't inclined to have a peaceful protest. They're throwing objects at the police. They're inciting trouble with the police, which will ensure that they get trouble with the police. And then that ensures that the rest of the crowd will become even more agitated.
So, in a typical mob scene-type situation, you do often see just an escalation and the group behavior or group think take on a mind of its own. And in this case, it's getting uglier and uglier. I think that at some point the police are going to have to exercise control before it gets even worse and people get hurt or killed. And you just can't have anarchy on the street for a long period of time. KEILAR: At what point do they do that? We saw pictures earlier
as protesters were starting to come into the area and you saw police create a human wall across a crosswalk. They clearly wanted the protesters to be abiding by traffic law.
They didn't want them getting out in the middle of the cars. But then what we saw was when protesters made it obvious they didn't want to go around the police officers, the police officers acquiesced. They stepped to the side, didn't want to create a confrontation.
But at a certain point, we heard from the police commissioner, that's what they're doing. They're allowing them to protest. But then when do they say, no, this is now an issue of order and we're not going to put up with this anymore? And then where do things go from there?
FUENTES: Well, they're basing it on, when does this become dangerous to the protesters themselves, the peaceful ones, members of the public, the businesses in that area? If you start having looting or violence, then things are going to have to change and the police are going to have to do something.
They can't -- they can acquiesce up to a certain point, but not to the point where people are committing violence and property damage against others. I think it's a judgment call on the part of the police of how much force and at what point, but certainly if the crowd doesn't de-escalate, this is going to get worse.
I want to re -- we have re-racked this incident from moments ago. Things really escalated very quickly. And I want to walk through this with you.
What appeared to happen -- this was behind our Brian Todd, who was reporting at the time. Police believe that this man is responsible perhaps for some sort of projectile, is what it appeared to be, because we did see objects being thrown. Now, we don't know that for sure. But we certainly saw a police officer almost fly at this man and then knock him down.
So take us through this.
FUENTES: Well, you know. And the police officers are going to know. If there's an individual in the middle of the group that starts throwing dangerous objects at the police, they have to deal with that. They can't stand there and just let objects bounce off of the police officers or other people.
So, they're forced into a situation. What they're trying to do in a tactical maneuver is surgically remove that one individual from that situation and get him into custody and into a wagon and away from the scene.
So -- but that's easier said than done, when everybody is there watching, and as soon as the police touch somebody, they interpret that as police brutality and start becoming even more upset about what's going on.
KEILAR: All right, Tom Fuentes, stand by are for us.
Much more breaking news out of Baltimore straight ahead.
KEILAR: We have breaking news out of Baltimore.
This was just moments ago. Even now, before the sun has set, we are seeing protesters gather there, very angry over the death of Freddie Gray, a young African-American man who passed away in police custody.
You're seeing what was peaceful protests have now become somewhat -- we have seen some violence, projectiles being thrown. We have some arrests and a lot of scuffles between police and protesters there. We are monitoring the situation there on the streets of Baltimore, where you are seeing these tensions flair between protesters and police.
So stand by for more on that.
But, right now, I want to go back to Senator Lindsey Graham.
We interrupted our interview earlier to go to Baltimore. We're back now. We're talking about this breaking news story that we're following, President Obama apologizing for what's believed to be the first time that the U.S. accidentally killed hostages in a drone strike.
So, obviously, this -- he said it's a mistake, Senator. But at the same time, your message is to press on, that this is a tool that you don't want to lose in this fight.
GRAHAM: My message is, press on. The war is hotter than ever.
The men and women who are behind the drone program, who make these agonizing decisions, I know many of them on the military side, on the intel side. They're patriots. Learn from your mistakes, but can you imagine what kind of job they have and how hard it is?
And we take extraordinary lengths not to do things like this, but I have no criticism of President Obama on this issue. I can talk about my differences with my president all day long, but, here, the president handled this right.
KEILAR: If you have the White House saying we have got an independent inspector general who is going to look at that, we're also doing this internal review...
GRAHAM: And the Congress is looking at it, too.
KEILAR: The Congress is looking at it, too. And you heard today from the White House the sense that maybe something could change, that they're certainly open to dissecting the program. What might change and what are your concerns...
GRAHAM: I don't know. I would like to hear from the experts.
But what I do not want to change is to understand the need for the program and back off, as -- I have never seen more terrorist organizations with more men, more money, more capability, more safe haven to attack our nation than I do right now, today. So the last thing you want to do is overreact to this, shut down the program.
KEILAR: So, aside from shutting down the program, what about pressing more on Pakistan to do something?
GRAHAM: Oh, my gosh, yes.
KEILAR: What else can be done there? If you can't do something, if you're not going to let off the gas pedal on this program, what else can be done to make sure that you're getting hostages, as we know there are three Canadians -- or two Canadians who just had a baby in custody by the Haqqani Network in the same area? What can you do?
GRAHAM: Here is some advice to the president. Don't repeat the mistakes in Afghanistan you made in Iraq. Do not pool all of our troops out of Afghanistan in 2017, because Afghanistan will deteriorate. The tribal regions will become hotbeds for terrorism again.
Not only should we push the Pakistanis to do better on their side of the border. We do have influence in Afghanistan. Do not pull all of our troops out. The war is by no means over in Afghanistan. It is in our national security interest to leave some troops behind to help the Afghans not only to defend Afghanistan, but to defend us.
If we have no counterterrorism footprint in Afghanistan beginning 2017, it's just a matter of time before they come back in Afghanistan and hit us here again.
KEILAR: All right, Senator Graham, thank you so much.
GRAHAM: Thank you.
KEILAR: We will be chatting with you a lot in the days and weeks ahead. Thank you.
And let's go now back to Baltimore, where our Brian Todd was just there on the street as there was a scuffle that broke out between police and protesters.
Brian, I know you're now outside of the police precinct there. Give us -- set the scene for us.
TODD: Brianna, we are at the headquarters of the West District of the Baltimore police.
This is the scene of protests over the past several nights, protesters starting their marches here, ending their marches here. We're of course not sure if this march is anywhere near over. But the protesters who we were just with a few blocks ago have stopped here.
And you see what they're doing, chanting Freddie. This is about, I would say, six blocks from where that confrontation occurred that you witnessed a short time ago, protesters getting very agitated at the mere sight of police officers. And when they see police barricades, when they see police out in force tonight, over the past several nights, they just get more worked up. I will let you listen here.
KEILAR: You said they're getting more and more worked up.
I think one of the concerns here as we go further into the evening, Brian, is that this is going to get worse. What are you hearing from protesters? What are you hearing from police?
TODD: We're hearing from protesters that they are just planning to march later on.
Now, when we follow them, they don't seem to have a planned route. They will go wherever they can go to disrupt traffic, to get away from police barricades. So, there is no route plan in place, but they just want to keep marching. They want to keep venting their anger.
Last night, they did it for four hours, more than four hours that we were with them. And I think we must have hiked five miles with these folks.
[18:30:14] So they are -- they have a lot of energy. They really want to vent their anger. They are doing it at the very sight of police officers. And of course, you know, the gist of their issue here is that they do not believe the police are giving them enough answers in the Freddie Gray case. They are not telling them how he specifically died, at least not to their satisfaction, at least not with the speed at which they want answers from the police.
And this is what's frustrating this community. They already feel like the police are targeting them unfairly. They've been videoing that over the last several years.
For their part, the police say they hear them. They're reforming the processes. They are retraining officers. Now we have taken a shot of these police officers here. This has been a pretty consistent scene throughout the last several days. When they are confronted by these protestors, the police officers simply looked straight ahead. They act very stoically.
Last night one protester jumped a barricade, and they took him in. And that agitated the crowd. There were some objects thrown, but it didn't go any further beyond that. The scene you just saw a few minutes ago certainly went further than that. There was a confrontation with police. More objects were thrown. I believe that second man arrested was arrested as a result of that.
But, you know, they say they want to stay peaceful. They have, for the most part, been peaceful. But again, you know, this is one of those very tenuous situations, where anything can happen.
KEILAR: It certainly is. And I want to get more on this with former police commissioner Leonard Hamm. We also have former FBI assistant director and CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes and the president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Cedric Alexander, as well as CNN anchor Don Lemon with us.
First, though, I want to talk with you a little bit, Tom. So you're watching this -- you're watching this happen. It seems like this is -- this is a recipe for a lot of chaos tonight.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it looks like it, Brianna. One of the concerns I have here is you see a deliberate decision by the police commissioner and possibly the mayor to put those officers out there, basically, with no extra protection. You don't see helmets, face shields, external tactical vests with enhanced body armor on them.
They're standing very nonchalant, in a non-confrontational manner in front of that crowd. And I think that when you start having somebody within that crowd throwing objects at them, they're unprotected. So they can't just stand there and let rocks and bottles or other debris be thrown at them. Even if they were in tactical gear they couldn't do that.
But this is a calculated and I think dangerous decision on the part of the officials of that city to put those police officers in front of that crowd or any crowd unprotected.
KEILAR: Leonard, let me ask you about that, because one of the lessons that came out of Ferguson was this police force that looks so militarized. You see that Baltimore police have made a different decision here to try to keep things low key. But at the same time we've been seeing things thrown at them. What are your concerns about balancing the risk -- the risk of being hurt with the risk of provoking something here?
LEONARD HAMM, FORMER POLICE COMMISSIONER OF BALTIMORE: I think that it was a good decision by the man, the police commissioner, whoever it was, to demilitarize the appearance of those officers.
One thing we learned in Ferguson was the fact that the appearance of the police officers in their military gear was a thing that also incited the riot.
Now I'm very impressed with the discipline of those police officers. They're standing their ground. I'm very afraid for not only their safety and the safety of the crowd, too. I'm very uncomfortable watching this. Extremely uncomfortable watching this. But I honestly think that, for right now, it's the right thing to do to have that particular appearance that the police officers have.
KEILAR: You're uncomfortable -- you're uncomfortable -- we should mention you're the former Baltimore police commissioner. You're uncomfortable watching this. What is your -- what's your fear?
HAMM: My fear is that -- and I'm talking as a former police commissioner, also a citizen of Baltimore. My fear is that someone is going to get hurt. That's my fear.
But what I've seen so far is pretty good leadership. I saw Lieutenant Colonel Melvin Russell out there. He was involved in a scuffle, and what I have seen him do is actually take command and lead those guys.
[18:35:05] That's what -- that's what the police officers need right now. They need leadership, someone who's going to keep them calm, and keep them focused and keep them disciplined. I think if, in fact, that happens with the police, it will reassure the crowd some.
KEILAR: Cedric -- Cedric, we're -- it's worth noting that you're not seeing city leaders marching with the protesters.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I lost the IFP. I got it back.
KEILAR: OK. Don is getting IFP there.
Cedric, we haven't seen the mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. She's actually been criticized. What do you think of that and why do you think we haven't seen city leaders standing with protesters?
ALEXANDER: Well, there are a number of things going on here that I need to speak to.
No. 1, I'm going to have confidence in the Baltimore Police that they have the appropriate personnel they need to move forward, should this turn into a more hostile situation. Right now, what you've got to allow that crowd to do is to vent somewhat. But at the same time, as well, too, the officers have to stay alert.
You do not want to over-militarize this operation as it is right now. It's a very delicate balance. I'm confident that Commissioner Batts and the leadership there are well aware of that. They are aware, just as much as many of us are who are police leaders currently, of what we learned out of Ferguson. You've got to handle this very delicately, and I'm going to trust they're going to be able to do that.
But to the point of your question here in regards her presence, this has been ten days now or more of nothing going into that community as to what occurred. That's going to continue to anger people until more language, more conversation, more of something comes out of this investigation. But we must ask this community to stay calm, peacefully protest.
And those who are going to go outside the law, they will be taken and arrested, and should be. However, this is not going to resolve itself through any violence. But I'm certain, and I'm very confident, that Baltimore Police have all the necessary resources they have available, which may not be visible to you there, but if they need to move them forward, they will.
KEILAR: And they have...
ALEXANDER: It's a very, very delicate situation.
KEILAR: And they have Maryland state troopers that are being sent in to serve as backup there for Baltimore Police, too.
I want to bring in Don Lemon, one of our anchors here at CNN. And Don, the frustration that you're hearing from some of these protestors, and you know, I just look at this sort of human wall of law enforcement around the precinct. I saw on the steps there of the police, you could see police videotaping the crowd. Certainly, they feel a threat that something here could happen. We've seen things thrown throughout the day.
But the frustration here from these protesters is that they don't feel like they really -- they have answers, right?
LEMON: Yes, it's because they want information, and they have to wait for the investigation to play out. Yes, they should be pressed to give information, but you're right. If you look at the -- up on the steps, you see the white shirts, as well call them in the news biz. And that is -- those are -- that's police brass. And they're looking at those officers in uniform on the street to make sure -- and looking at the protesters to try to gauge the situation so they can go back and re-assess.
And if you take -- if you took down all of the letters and words that are on our screen, this could be Ferguson. If the locators weren't up there. And so the same situation that happened in Ferguson, with the officers lined up in front of the police department, that's what we're seeing now, except we're not seeing the over-militarized part that happened in the beginning.
And yet, you're exactly correct. Here's what Tony Batts, police commissioner, told one of our affiliates today. He says -- also meeting with the family today and also saying, "As the marchers are out there, what I have told the police department employees is to allow them to march, understand the outrage, understand the pain that the community has suffered through, and allow them to express themselves in their own constitutional way."
So I believe the officers have been given the direction and are stepping back and let the marchers protest and have their say for today. What he's saying is he's told the officers to show a lot of restraint. If you've been watching us live, officers had been showing a lot of restraint until that scuffle broke out. They're concerned about nightfall, as you have been correctly pointing out. KEILAR: And we -- you know, we saw earlier in the day, really
not very long ago, actually, the swarming of this police car, which at the time seemed very -- it seemed peaceful, and then we saw the police come over, and they dispersed the crowd.
But just minutes after that, then we saw this scuffle where we saw people repeatedly throwing things at police officers. There's a rhythm to some of these protests, John. You're all too familiar with that, having spent time in Ferguson. What do you think is ahead?
[18:40:09] LEMON: Yes. And you're right. There is a rhythm to it. And even -- not just spending time in Ferguson but also spending time in other cities where this has happened and being on the anchor desk when this happened, especially the protests here in New York City. The aerial shots we had of protestors swarming police cars, gathering in large -- you know, in areas where the police wanted to move them.
The concern is that too many people will gather in one spot to block a police car or block off a place or go into a place that they don't want them to go.
So -- but we must remember that the bulk of these protests have been peaceful. If you get a crowd this large, not even in a protest, if you're at a ball game, if you're at what have you, something is going to break out somewhere. It's just sad in this particular situation; because there is an increased likelihood of violence, because there is so much tension right now in the neighborhoods, in the city of Baltimore.
So it looks like, as of now, police have gotten the situation under control. But as we know, Brianna, both of us from covering this, anything can change at any second.
KEILAR: OK, Don, stand by. We're going to Brian Todd. He's there on the ground outside of the police precinct.
Give us a sense, Brian, of what's been happening there. We've been seeing people really just yelling at police officers. They're very angry. What's happened in the last few minutes?
TODD: They're very angry, Brianna. But I've just witnessed a scene that was interesting, because one of the police commanders here, he just had a conversation with one of the protest leaders. He was whispering in his ear. And the protest leader nodded his head. And then they parted ways.
But the protest leader just appealed to the crowd to stop throwing things. And then others joined in, appealing to others in the crowd to stop throwing bottles and other things, water bottles, at the police, saying that they want to make this peaceful.
I asked specifically the protest leader what the police commander said to him, and he said he didn't want to comment on that. But clearly, there's been an appeal made by the police to the protest leaders here, identifying a couple of those leaders, to say, "Look, you know, we'll, of course, allow to you stay here and be here as long as you want," but they are really appealing for them not to throw objects. And since that period we've not seen any objects thrown.
So there has been an appeal by the protestors here to the crowd to kind of tamp down their anger a little bit and stop throwing objects. But they are still very angry, still yelling loud complaints to the police officers. I just heard one man say it's been -- shout to these police officers saying, "It's been 11 days. What if that was your son?" That's the level of anger we're seeing here.
KEILAR: Yes. So much frustration. And I do want to bring in now the attorney for the family of Freddie Gray, Andrew O'Connell. He's with us now.
Can you first tell us how the family is doing here?
ANDREW O'CONNELL, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF FREDDIE GRAY: Well, the family right now are still in the grieving process. They've collected the body of their son, and right now they're making funeral arrangements.
KEILAR: OK. So they're going through the very beginning stages here of dealing with his death, and they must just be besides themselves. But I wonder, as we are really lacking for answers here, we have the video of Freddie Gray being taken to this truck in handcuffs, and then we know that interest there are several minutes before he was given any sort of medical attention.
What does the family think, Andrew, about what led to this severe spinal cord injury that ultimately killed him?
O'CONNELL: Right now the family is still just devastated and traumatized by this entire ordeal. They want answers. As you said, there's gaps in time with regard to the delivery of medical care to Mr. Gray. The police still have not turned over the written statements given by some of the officers that were involved in the takedown and arrest of Mr. Gray. They'd like to see those.
They'd like to have the radio runs, the police radio recordings that would give us a are more clear picture of the time line and what really happened.
They'd like to see the knife that the police claim they recovered from Mr. Gray's pocket. So they just have a lot of questions right now that need to be answered while in the middle of this grieving process.
KEILAR: And it's so much for them to shoulder at this point, no doubt.
We heard one of the accounts from a man who actually shot cell- phone video of this incident, and he said that police actually, they folded Freddie Gray like he was a piece of origami. That was the description.
Have you heard anything new from the medical examiner about Gray's injuries?
O'CONNELL: We are still waiting for the medical examiner report to be issued. And the family does not have any other information at this time. The video speaks for itself. There were several police officers on top of Mr. Gray at the time he was arrested. He was taken down and forcefully restrained, which is contrary to what the police officers put in their written application for charges. The family wants answers, absolutely.
KEILAR: All right. Andrew, stand by. I want it to have a further discussion with you after a quick break.
We'll be right back.
[18:50:19] KEILAR: Let's get more now with the attorney for the family of Freddie Gray, Andrew O'Connell. And we will continue to show you these live pictures coming to us from Baltimore where protesters are very upset outside of the police precinct there.
Andrew, to remind our viewers what happened with Freddie Gray, he reportedly fled from police -- and it's really unclear why. But then police stopped him and they reported that they found a knife on him, which was considered for, I think, ultimately some look at this example as someone who is committing, according to police reports, a rather minor offense and then this happens. They die in police custody.
You have the police union, Andrew, that's saying all they needed was reasonable suspicion to stop Freddie Gray and officers had every right to chase him.
What's your reaction to that?
O'CONNELL: Reasonable suspicion has to be evaluated in the context of the arrest. You look at the circumstances of this case, he had no weapon in his hands, committing no crime and he wasn't hurting nobody. The police had no reasonable suspicion to stop or arrest him.
KEILAR: OK. So, I wonder -- and I know that you've said the Gray family, obviously, they're dealing with just this initial stage of mourning the loss of Freddie. But when you look at the facts that you have and you have the video, is there a sense that perhaps this spinal cord injury, that this happened because Freddie was not seat belted in the police transport van? We've seen this before, even ten years ago in Baltimore where someone also arrested on a minor offense was not seat belted in and this is a moving vehicle. And ultimately a really similar thing happened.
What do you think happened?
O'CONNELL: Well, we've heard the police comment that something happened in that van, which I think is beginning a false narrative.
We don't know what happened in the van. True. But what we know is what we saw on the police video, or the cell phone video of a brutal takedown of Mr. Gray, more than one police officer on his back while he was screaming in pain.
We don't have the medical examiner's report at this moment. But we hope to soon. And after that we'll have a better idea the nature of his injuries. We don't know whether or not they happened in the van, while he was being taken down or perhaps while he was screaming in pain.
So, to speculate that this happened in the van is just that, speculation at this point.
KEILAR: And we don't know, and there are so many questions that need to be answered. But we do hear in that video, we hear that he's asked for an inhaler. Can you shed any light on that? Did he have asthma or anything?
O'CONNELL: I don't have any information on that, other than he was a healthy 25-year-old man before he was taken into custody by the Baltimore City police where he tied.
KEILAR: His family hasn't told you at times he had an inhaler even though there wasn't one on him. You don't know anything about that?
O'CONNELL: I don't have any information to tell you about that.
KEILAR: OK. So, at this point there are five out of the six officers who have given statements. One, you know, using his constitutional right has not. Do you believe at this point the police are being cooperative in this investigation, especially considering we just heard this hour from if police commissioner who told his investigator to go back and do a better job?
O'CONNELL: Well, look, the police have a lot of questions that need to be answered. What was the reasonable suspicion, why were they arrested our client? These are pretty big questions that need to be answered. We would like to see the witness -- or the police statements, we'd like to hear the radio runs. All of that still needs to be turned over.
We'd like to see the knife that they claim was found in Mr. Gray's pocket. We haven't seen any of that.
So, yes, the police are conducting their investigation, but they have some answers that they can give now. The police statements were taken on April 12th. They're not getting any better with age. We would like to see them and check them for internal inconsistencies.
O'CONNELL: But we haven't had that opportunity yet.
KEILAR: All right. Andrew O'Connell, the family attorney for Freddie Gray's family, thanks so much for being with us. We really appreciate it. [18:55:03] And certainly we are thinking and praying for his
family that is going through this difficult time.
I want to get more on all of this. Former FBI director and CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes, we have the president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Cedric Alexander, and we have CNN anchor Don Lemon.
So, Don, this was really interesting when we heard from the commissioner who said that he told the investigators to basically go back and do a better job at accounting for what happened throughout the days of these police officers. What do you think about that? Is that PR? Is that substantive?
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I think it is substantive. I think that he -- right now, he's not satisfied with the information that they have. And he wants to make sure that -- listen, I'm not an attorney, but I think because the mayor admitting that they didn't, you know, on national television, admitting that they didn't -- they should have called for medical assistance sooner, I think this opens the city to some liability.
So, I think he's trying to probably limit the exposure here. But also, I think he wants to conduct a thorough investigation. I think there's not enough information right now.
I think yes, we should glean from that that -- hey, listen, police don't know everything that's going on even though they have gotten the stories and the testimonies, so to speak, from at least five of the officers involved plus the driver.
KEILAR: Tom, is that the wrong thing to do when there seems to be some sort of medical problem and there's such a delay in getting some sort of medical help, whether it's, you know, you have the driver of the van who goes to pick up another suspect or prisoner who needs transport. And it sort of isn't treated seriously? I mean, what should they have done?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You're right, Brianna. It's got to be checked out. If the officers have any reason to believe that he was hurt, they should have stopped immediately and sat him down, let him sit in the still position while they call for the ambulance or paramedics to come and treat him and determine whether or not he has that condition.
We have other misreporting about what happened in that van when they shackled his legs, the allegation that he was creating a disturbance which would indicate that he didn't have a serious back injury or a crushed voice box if he's able to create a disturbance.
So, we just don't know that yet. Until they release the information, we won't know.
KEILAR: Cedric, you heard the family attorney there saying they want to see this knife that Freddie Gray reportedly, according to cops, had on him. There's a lot of suspicion certainly from this family, from people in the community, they really wonder if Freddie Gray was doing anything and if she was just arrested not really for cause.
CEDRIC ALEXANDER, NATL. ORG. OF BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT EXECUTIVES: Well, there's going to continue to be a lot of suspicion until more information comes out in regards to what occurred. I think a lot of the speculation that's being made around this event, some of it may be right, some of it we're not sure of. But certainly what we see from the video is pretty clear and evident to us.
But I think here again at no fault of the mayor or the commissioner or the leadership, they can't give the community any more information than what they're being exposed to or given. I honestly believe they're not keeping anything deliberately from the community. It's just that this investigation is going to take some time and it's going to -- witnesses from various locations and various shots of video that's going to be taken.
But I truly believe here that the mayor and the commissioner are committed to get to the bottom of this as they get more information. I am certain they're going to share it with the community. Just right now, it just doesn't appear that a lot of information is being moving forward the way we would like for it to be because of some of the issues that are in that environment.
KEILAR: Quick final question to you, Tom. Five of the six officers have spoken. One hasn't. When you look at that you read into that and you think, maybe this person isn't disclosing information. Maybe they're not being forthcoming.
FUENTES: No, may be. But, you know, it's their constitutional right to not speak. And I think people have misquoted the officer's bill of rights which really isn't applicable in this case, because, you know, if an officer thinks that he might face criminal charges, he can use his Fifth Amendment rights like a normal citizen and never talk. If they do talk, it's got to be the truth but they don't have to talk.
KEILAR: All right.
LEMON: Considering the charges if I were involved in this, guilty or innocent, whatever it is, I probably would not speak either. I would wait for my attorney to speak, yes.
KEILAR: Take that right very seriously.
All right. Don Lemon, thank you so much. Tom, thank you. Cedric, thank you.
And, of course, Don is going to be back more with much more on this from Baltimore on his program, "CNN TONIGHT". You can see that at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.
And, remember, you can follow us on Twitter. Just tweet the show @CNNsitroom, and be sure to join us tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Thanks for watching us.
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