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Rioters Turn Baltimore Into "Absolute War Zone." Aired 4:45-5p ET

Aired April 27, 2015 - 16:30   ET



ERICA GREEN, "THE BALTIMORE SUN": I saw officers badly injured. I have seen journalists assaulted.

It's just been absolutely insane. The crowd, it seems, has swelled over time, as has the -- the number of police officers. And, right now, I'm standing in the middle of a big kind of perimeter that the police have formed with their bodies around several blocks of Gwynns Falls Parkway.

So, they're trying to push the people into the side streets kind of from the middle of the street where this kind of began. And things are still being pummeled across the street at the police, but it tends -- it seems like...


TAPPER: Whoa, whoa. Hold on, Erica, Erica. Hold on one second. Erica, hold on one second.


TAPPER: We're watching some serious -- we're watching from a helicopter, from WJZ in Baltimore -- we're watching police taking down some demonstrators, some protesters, people who were attacking the police car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're kind of going down Pennsylvania Avenue. Some of them went in another direction. We don't know if they are going to regroup, but that definitely broke this group up. You can see the damage down there to that police car, quite extensive. Several police officers now...


CAPT. ERIC KOWALCZYK, BALTIMORE POLICE DEPARTMENT: -- appropriate to protect the safety of our police officers.

TAPPER: We're now listening to a press conference from the Baltimore Police Department. We're going to take that right now.

KOWALCZYK: We have officers deployed throughout the city to make sure that we can continue to deliver police services to the citizens of Baltimore and we will continue to keep the city safe. Our officers are working at quickly and as appropriately as they can

to bring about order in the area of Mondawmin and effect arrests of the criminals who violently and without provocation attacked our police officers.

We're still in the middle of this situation. It's still happening. We know, as this is going on, that seven of our officers right now have been injured. The exact circumstances that took place that led to their injuries, something we will be able to determine at a later day.

We're going to go back and do an investigation and we will find the people that are responsible and we will put them in jail. Right now, it is a group of lawless individuals with no regard for the safety of the people that live in that community or the safety of our police officers who are there to ensure that the people who live and work in that area could do so safely.

QUESTION: Are these high school students?

KOWALCZYK: I don't know who's out there right now. That's something that we will be able to determine as this event goes on.

What we do know is that they're criminals. They attack officers without provocation. They have no regard for the safety of the people that live in that community and our officers are working hard to bring about order.


KOWALCZYK: We're not going to speculate as to what this is related to. We're dealing with the situation right now. You can hear officers responding out there behind me.

Right now, our focus is making sure that the people that live in that community are safe and that our officers are safe.

QUESTION: Can you speak to the size of the group that you're dealing with right now?

KOWALCZYK: I don't have an estimate of the size right now. Obviously, it's a large group of people spread out over a significant area. Our officers are deploying as quickly as they can.

Our primary concerns right now are making sure that our officers stay safe. I can't emphasize this enough. We have seven officers who were injured during the course of this. They have broken bones. One of them is unresponsive. This is not OK.

Our officers went out to that situation to make sure that the people who live in that community were safe and we're going to continue to do what we can to make sure that those people stay safe. We have that obligation to the city.


KOWALCZYK: Yes. I don't want to speculate about any correlation between the two.

What we know is that, this morning, we received a threat. It was run through our intelligence section. That threat was determined to be credible. So we took the appropriate precautions of ensuring that that information was not only distributed internally to our officers here, but to law enforcement agencies nationwide.


KOWALCZYK: I'm sorry.


KOWALCZYK: It's too early to know that. Right now, we know that we have officers that are still responding to that location.

We're doing what we do in these types of situations to bring about order. You're going to see tear gas. You're going to see pepper balls. We're going to use appropriate methods to ensure that we're able to preserve the safety of that community.


KOWALCZYK: Yes, I don't want to get into that right now. We're in the middle of the situation.

Our focus right now, we need to let people that are in that community know that we're doing what we can to ensure they're safety. We're sending extra resources and deploying police officers to make sure that that neighborhood is safe, that the people that are trying to get home from work can do so peacefully.



KOWALCZYK: That's something that we're going to figure out. We know that rocks are being thrown. We know that bricks are being thrown.

We know that our officers have been placed in harm's way and we know that seven of them have been injured. And we're going to do everything we can to make sure that another officer isn't. So, again, you are going to see us use appropriate measures like tear gas and pepper balls. As we're able to provide more information later in the night, we will do so. Thank you very much.

TAPPER: All right, you were just listening to Captain Eric Kowalczyk, the spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department.

He was just reporting on the status of several -- seven, specifically, police officers, who have been injured in what I think are fair to describe as riots in Baltimore. He said one of the police officers is unresponsive. Others have broken bones -- quote -- "This is not OK," said Captain Kowalczyk, talking about the violence against police officers. He also referred to the threat that law enforcement had heard about they're being specific allegations, specific targeting of police, a threat that they said, that Captain Kowalczyk said had been run through their intelligence department, and had been deemed to be credible and run through and shared with other police departments around the country.

I want to bring in -- bring back CNN's Miguel Marquez, who is in the thick of the riots down there in Baltimore. We're watching it all from a helicopter from WJZ.

Miguel, what are you seeing?

Miguel Marquez, we're having trouble with the communications.

Let's go to Athena Jones, CNN's Athena Jones, who was also on the scene.

I'm seeing Miguel Marquez.

MARQUEZ: Yes, Jake, a little thicker than expected.

This is Reisterstown Road here, Jake. This is the place -- they're not hearing us.

TAPPER: No, we hear you. Miguel, keep going. Miguel, we hear you. Keep going. We gotcha, Miguel. Go ahead.

MARQUEZ: Can you hear us?

TAPPER: Yes. You're good.

MARQUEZ: Jake, this is Reisterstown Road here. This is the location that we drove up.

You can see the phalanx of -- you can see the phalanx. OK. We can you can see the phalanx of police officers there. A very -- a very large armored truck just came down this road a short time ago, through those officers, to effect an arrest in that area. I can tell you that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of protesters in the neighborhoods around this area.

If you swing around this way, you can see the line of officers this way on Gwynns Falls road. They have actually lit a fire, a trash can on fire and put it in the center of the road over here as well. And then where Athena is, over on this side, if you swing all the way around here, if you swing all the way around, you can see that police are currently clashing with protesters down north of Monroe Street there.

It is a horribly bad situation, that this is happening about a half- mile from New Shiloh Church, where Freddie Gray, his funeral was today, a very, very powerful message of defiance, but peaceful protest, and it has turned into this.

It is an absolute war zone. I can say that driving up through this area and having these individuals look at us, me in a tie coming from a funeral, wondering who in the hell we were and what we were doing there, it was as frightening as a situation gets.

There were a lot of nice people who cleared cars out for us and we were able to get through, but there are people of all ages, all sexes with rocks, sticks looking to go after police in this neighborhood of Baltimore. It is an extraordinarily bad sign that this is happening on the day of Freddie Gray's funeral -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right.

Just for those of us who are joining right now, we have been watching what I think are fair to describe as riots breaking out in the streets of Baltimore, as members of the Baltimore Police Department have been apparently targeted for various violence, a lot of rocks and bricks and sticks and other projectiles thrown at them.

We have been watching, as rioters have attacked a police car. You're seeing that on your television right now. That's from a few minutes ago. The crowd gets bigger and then starts attacking the car, the police car even more violently than they are right now.

There's a long delay I have with Miguel Marquez and with Athena Jones, who are in the streets of Baltimore right now watching it, so you will forgive me. I will ask the question and then there will be something of a delay.


I do want to take a moment to thank viewers, to thank our viewers, not only here in the United States, but around the world, who are turning in. We are now broadcasting this internationally.

What you're seeing are the scenes of a violent clash between citizens, the residents, rioters, demonstrators, protesters in Baltimore targeting the police, targeting the police in Baltimore. And this comes on the same day, not long after the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Baltimore resident who was killed. He died in police custody.

His family has been pleading for peace, but, regardless of that, there was intelligence that came to the Baltimore P.D. earlier today that the police would be targeted. I'm not sure if the intelligence was specifically about this protest, this demonstration, this riot, or about violence from gangs.

There was also a report that the Baltimore Police Department had heard that they would be targeted by gangs, by Crips and Bloods uniting to attack police.

I'm going to go right now, if I can, to Billy Murphy, who is attorney for Freddie Gray's family.

Mr. Murphy, thanks for joining us.

This violence that we're seeing right now and that we saw on Saturday night, Sunday morning, it's exactly what the family of Freddie Gray said they didn't want. Do you know, are they aware of what's happening right now?

BILLY MURPHY, ATTORNEY FOR GRAY FAMILY: Well, we don't know. They're safe and sound where they live.

And this is an isolated instance of violence in one part of the city. And it looks like it's just teenagers. And we hope that it doesn't get any worse than that, frankly, because Freddie Gray's family does not want this.

TAPPER: Yes, I hear you that it might be just teenagers, although, you know, teenagers can certainly cause harm as well, and as the Baltimore Police Department spokesperson, Captain Kowalczyk, announced, one of the officers who has been injured, one of the seven who has been injured is unresponsive.

Others have broken bones, obviously, Freddie Gray's family very upset about the violence over the weekend. One imagines they would feel the same way about this.

This all comes just hours after Freddie Gray, at the young age of 25, was laid to rest. There must be concern among the family that this type of violence will distract from the message that the family is seeking?


MURPHY: I am sure that the family is concerned and I am positive that they are against what is beginning to develop here in town.

And our hearts go out to the two police officers who were injured, because they don't deserve this anymore than Freddie Gray deserved it.

TAPPER: In light of this violence, sir, do you have any idea if the family wants the protests to continue? Obviously, most of the protests have been peaceful.

Most of them have been about justice and about seeking reforms of the kind of policing that may have led to the death of Freddie Gray. Do they have any concerns about protests continuing, given the escalating violence we have seen over the weekend and today?

MURPHY: We are all concerned about that.

And probably the best bet is for the protests to temporarily stop, until this violence is contained and eliminated.

TAPPER: Obviously, there is a long history of tensions with police in Baltimore.

Does it appear to you that this is -- the protests in general have been about something other than Freddie Gray, bigger than Freddie Gray? Maybe some people are taking advantage of this tragedy?

MURPHY: No, no. Nobody's deliberately trying to take advantage of this tragedy. This is just a boiling over of tensions.


TAPPER: Mr. Murphy, if you would hold on for one second. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I don't mean to interrupt, sir. I'm sorry.

But there is some scene taking place with a CVS in Baltimore and we're going to take a listen to the WBAL helicopter pilot talking about what he's seeing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will try and get more information on that, but, right now, a lot of activity here at Pennsylvania Avenue and North Avenue.

Yes, they have got several groups out here. That's the problem. They have got groups here at Pennsy and North. They have got groups over there at Gwynns Falls. They have got groups over there at Monroe Street.

They still have groups over there at Liberty Heights near Ocantroli (ph). So it's -- the police are north of that location. They just can't go marching in there, because they will get flanked and, again, you will have more officers hurt. They're still waiting for reinforcement now.

City police helicopter Foxtrot is overtop, monitoring the situation at Pennsy and North, and relaying information back to the command. But the officers at Pennsylvania and North are actually about a half a block north of that intersection where they formed a line, working their way down, but the issue is they can't afford to be out-flanked.

CVS pharmacy, there's been other businesses that have been attacked, cars that have been attacked. I know there's been some officers hurt, civilians hurt. This is ongoing and not stopping.

TAPPER: If we could bring down the sound of WBAL, the helicopter pilot right now, I want to tell viewers what they're looking at. On the left side of the screen, they're seeing the police commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department.

He is with fellow officers as they take to it streets. There are arrests going on. There has been a great deal of violence against police officers today that we've seen. It started it appeared, with high school students.

That's what we're told, anyway, from those in the streets of Baltimore reporting for us, Miguel Marquez and Athena Jones. The high school students, it appeared, were the ones throwing rocks, sticks and bricks and other objects at police.

And then the riot protest, violent demonstration went on from there with a police car violently attacked, we're told, by the spokesperson for the Baltimore police that seven officers are injured including one who is unresponsive and others with broken bones.

We appear to be watching the looting of a CVS. It is a day of violence in Baltimore. Not the first one in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray. Saturday night, Sunday morning, also brought some violence in the streets of Baltimore against the wishes of the family of Freddie Gray.

Miguel Marquez is in the streets of Baltimore covering this all for CNN. Miguel, what are you, what are you witnessing, and I should tell our viewers, there's going to be about a 20-second delay before he answers because of the difficulty we're having with comes right now in the middle of this riot -- Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we are witnessing pandemonium here, Jake. We are at the corner of Ricertown and Gwynn Falls Parkway. We are seeing National Guard helicopters overhead -- police in riot gear, and dozens of, hundreds of protestors who are throwing rocks, bricks.

I can show you exactly what, the sort of stuff they're throwing at officers here. Most of the houses are made of bricks in this area and this is the sort of stuff coming at officers. Officers are responding with either pepper bullets or marking the protestors with paint balls basically, or some sort of paint so they can find them later.

Anybody who is throwing stuff gets a paintball shot at them and you can see that they are bringing in more officers by the moment as well. Down Gwynn Falls road here, there was a trash can that was lit on fire earlier, and police are basically just trying to hold the line.

The CVS that you referenced a second ago is over a few blocks from where Freddie Gray was arrested, and now you're looking at a very heavily armed vehicle that will likely make its way through, and this is from Prince George's County.

Clearly, resources from other police departments around the area, Prince George's right north of Washington, D.C., now called in to assist here. They are taking this as a second heavily armed vehicle that we have seen, or armored vehicle that we have seen move down Gwynn Falls or Ricerstown Road.

We came up that road that that car is currently going down and I can tell you it was a very frightening thing. I've covered a few things in my life as have you, nothing more frightening than an angry mob.

Mostly young people, of both sexes with rocks, stick, anything they could fight with. Police have a hell of a job on their hands today in Baltimore -- Jake.

TAPPER: And it is very troubling, and amidst all this there will be a home baseball game this evening scheduled. The Orioles playing the White Sox, I believe. That was a problem on Saturday night. When there were protests outside Camden Yards, the baseball park, in Baltimore, and people who were at the game were told to stay in the park.

MARQUEZ: They nearly cancelled the game, I think, Saturday night, over concerns about the protesters. When the protesters were marching to city hall and they passed Camden Yards, saw police presence there, they changed course, went down there and taunted police.

[16:50:08] And then they went to city hall and after the first place, the largest contingent of protestors went back to was Camden Yards. Protestors here promised to go downtown, are already in the area of Pennsylvania and North Avenue near where Mr. Gray was arrested.

They havve promised to go back downtown and perhaps try to get back into Camden Yards so I think there will be great concern of carrying out a baseball game in the middle of all of this -- Jake.

TAPPER: Amidst all this we're told that the White House and the Department of Justice under the control of the brand new Attorney General Loretta Lynch is monitoring the situation, the White House, and the Department of Justice. No statement from either of them.

Let's go to Athena Jones, who also in the streets of Baltimore. Athena, what are you seeing, what are you witnessing?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jake. Where we are right now is on North Monroe. This is the same street that the church was on, the church that held the funeral service for Freddie Gray today, less than a mile away. This is a sad situation.

We just witnessed someone being arrested here. Those hand ties put on him. We know that at least one other arrest in this immediate vicinity. We also know about the seven police officers who were injured including one who is, we're told, unresponsive. I want to show you some things thrown.

This looks like a piece of a shelf of some sort. Heavy objects like a canister, a rusted out paint canister and even this, which looks to be a connection between two pipes. It's very, very heavy, Jake. These are the kinds of projectiles that is being thrown at police and of course, in our direction because we're somewhat close to police.

Right now, it looks as though they're still holding the line. We haven't seen as many projectiles thrown. We have seen police holding canisters of different sizes, small canisters which we believe are pepper spray.

We saw them shoot something in the air. Some wearing gas masks but haven't seen anything that is obviously tear gas.

TAPPER: Athena, I just want to interrupt -- I want to interrupt, Athena. One second, we're looking at some -- looking at images right now that, it's a police car appears to be a police car on fire. Let's take a listen to the police, to the chopper pilot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- I'm sure the officer that was in there is out.

TAPPER: You're watching a police car on fire in Baltimore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Department of Transportation police vehicle. There are two of them down there.

TAPPER: This is not the first -- first police car that's -- we saw another one earlier. This is a Maryland State Police vehicle, we're told.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The protestors moved to where though officers are and those officers are not protected --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's still a large group of people on this road. This is North Avenue, very close to Pennsylvania Avenue, and right now this seems to be the hotbed for a couple of reasons. This is where one of the larger groups that splintered off when the police made their advance.

They went down this way and sort of gathered up here. They've done other things. I do see some police, but that's the other reason you don't see a lot of -- we've seen so much down here.

There wasn't a large police presence, but on -- Pennsylvania Avenue, if we go to the left and then up a little bit, we're going to see some police gathering in the street on Pennsylvania Avenue.

So they're going to be working their way down here, because this is the problem area right here. Now, on the corner down here is the CVS, we understand --

TAPPER: You're watching right now a Maryland State Police vehicle on fire. Set afire, according to the helicopter pilot set on fire by the rioters who took the streets today throwing rocks and pipes and other objects at police.

Seven police officers injured, one unresponsive, and others with broken bones. There are starting to now be several arrests in the wake of all of this violence.

Let's go to Athena Jones. You say -- we're seeing also looting taking place of a CVS in Baltimore as well as people continuing to throw objects at the police or just into the street. Athena, what are you seeing where you are?

JONES: I've just seen, you can see now this picture we're showing you of four young men who were just arrested, just brought over to this group to sit on the ground, but I can tell you this.

A woman was at the home where they were being arrested on an upper story, leaning out a second story window saying that the men, the young men being carried away had not done anything wrong.

A man across the street also from this neighborhood told me they were just standing outside. They weren't doing anything and they got the wrong people.

[16:55:03] So this is a very unstable scene. It's not clear who's doing -- why these four men were arrested, that the people around them are saying they should not have been.

But -- yes, the police are moving -- they're now holding a line about a block further, a block closer to the church where Freddie gray's funeral was held. But as I mentioned, one minute seems calm, but then a few minutes later you'll have something go down like what went down just now with several arrests in a continuing unstable situation -- Jake.

TAPPER: It is an ugly scene on the streets of Baltimore. Just to reset for those just turning in tuning in here in the United States or around the world. It was one week ago yesterday a 25-year-old Baltimore resident named Freddie Gray died after suffering severe injuries in police custody. What happened, we still do not know. It is unclear how his neck came to be all but snapped that day.

But in any case, however it happened, whatever reason, Baltimore police have yet to give the full accounting of what happened and one week ago yesterday he died.

There have since been many protests, many demonstrations, most peaceful, then over the weekend they turned ugly, turned violent and there were police cars that were attacked.

There were storefronts that were vandalized and looted and now today we were told earlier today that Baltimore police had heard they would be targeted, and just a few minutes ago, we saw a mob of Baltimore residents, told high school students possibly, throwing objects at police.

Since then we have seen at least two police cars attacked. One is now on fire in the streets of Baltimore. We are also watching a CVS Pharmacy a drug store, being looted in the streets of Baltimore. You can see the police car also under fire.

That's a Maryland State Police vehicle we're told. Athena, are police more aggressively arresting individuals? What are you seeing where you are?

JONES: Well, I've seen -- I've seen -- I've seen the last few minutes those four arrests. Those were the most arrests I've seen since we've been here the last couple of hours. I believe we're showing a picture of some of the residents around here who are yelling at police.

But we're also seeing more of the police put on gas masks, which makes us believe that the warning they gave us some time ago, they were going to use tear gas, at some point, that it's going to happen soon.

I'm seeing more and more police -- if you pan over here, pan over, you'll going to see more police -- here's one police officer putting on what looks to be a gas mask. So this may be the next event to take place here -- Jake.

TAPPER: Have you --

JONES: But as I mentioned, those four arrests the most we've seen in the last couple of hours. We've seen them more and more begin to put on -- they told us some time ago, they warned us. They could be using tear gas.

We only saw a few police at that moment put on gas masks. We are just seeing several more put them on, but by no means do them all have gas masks on at this point. It's unclear how close they are to using tear gas.

TAPPER: I want to bring in --

JONES: All right, so I'm told by the producer --

TAPPER: -- NAACP, Tessa Hill Aston, Tessa, you and I met on the streets of Baltimore a few days ago. Tell your reaction to what you're seeing.

TESSA HILL ASTON, NAACP (via telephone): I'm on the phone talking to them. Yes. I'm sorry. I was talking to people trying to get my attention.

TAPPER: That's fine. Please, tell me what your thoughts are as you witness this?

ASTON: I'm just upset that this whole thing is happening. I feel bad. It's terrible for Baltimore and terrible for the people. It's terrible for the family, because the family had asked people every day not to do anything on the day of Freddie Gray's funeral and we just finished the funeral several hours ago.

Right after the funeral, things started happening. I live near here and did drive up that way and couldn't get all the way in, which I knew I couldn't, but I did see a lot of the chaotic stuff going on.

And I saw children over near 7-Eleven and I was at Gwynn Falls and Ricertown Road at the intersection as far as I could get. So I think it's terrible. It's amazing how everybody can get the word just to run out and act like that, and who's orchestrating it and directing children to do this?

Because -- thank you -- what's going to happen? There's going to be several lockups and then it's going to be like I heard on the news, that four people just got locked up and people saying they were innocent.

You're going to hear a lot of that, because what happens in situations like this, there are innocent bystanders, either people participating, but not at the hand where they did something criminal, because they're near the criminal activity they're going to get locked up and everybody could get thrown in jail. That's what happens.

TAPPER: Tessa, I'm sorry, I need to interrupt you. I have to hand over to Wolf Blitzer right now. Stay on the phone. I'm sure Wolf will want to talk to you as well. You've been watching THE LEAD with Jake Tapper. We now turn it over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."