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THE SITUATION ROOM
Police Tactics; Al Qaeda Leader Killed; Interview With Virginia Senator Tim Kaine; Police Chiefs Meet to Rethink Use of Force Tactics; New Details on Dueling Probes of Freddie Gray's Death. Aired 18-19:00p ET
Aired May 7, 2015 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: terror warning. It turns out the feds gave local police a heads-up about one of the Texas attackers just hours before he opened fire. As new video surfaces of the gunman, we're learning more about his direct connection to ISIS.
Al Qaeda leader killed. Has the United States struck a critical blow to the terrorists who are thriving on war on turmoil in their backyard?
And changing tactics. After deadly arrests from Baltimore to Ferguson, police chiefs across the nation, they are coming together to rethink the rules for confronting suspects.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: The breaking news: The FBI reveals it issued a bulletin to local police just three hours before the terror attack in Texas specifically warning about one of the gunmen, Elton Simpson.
Tonight, we're learning that Simpson had closer ties to ISIS than previously revealed. And we're also hearing his voice for the first time talking about his Muslim faith on video. We have our correspondents, analysts and newsmakers. They're all standing by as we cover all the news that's breaking right now.
First, let's go to our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown. She's in Phoenix, where the Texas attackers live.
What's the latest, Pamela?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, FBI Director James Comey revealing today that the FBI was at the scene of the event on the lookout for suspected extremists who may want to target the event. And we learned just three hours before he opened fire, Elton Simpson was added to that list.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BROWN (voice-over): The FBI was so concerned about Elton
Simpson, seen here in a new video obtained by CNN, that in the hours before he launched his attack in Texas Sunday, the bureau shared his photo and license plate information with local police. Today, the FBI director told reporters about that warning, but said his agents did not know Simpson and his accomplice had already traveled from Arizona to Texas in a car loaded with body armor and guns.
In this fund-raising video for an Arizona mosque, he talked about his faith in terms of weapons.
ELTON SIMPSON, GUNMAN: When you come together and you pray five times a day, it provides for you a form of weaponry to go out into the real world.
BROWN: Simpson's online presence showed a more extremist view. CNN has learned he not only communicated publicly on Twitter with known terrorists, but also messaged privately with Mohamed Hassan, an American born member of Al-Shabaab, the al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, and Junaid Hussain, a British-born ISIS recruiter and hacker.
U.S. investigators believe Hussain and Hassan each helped radicalize Simpson, encouraging him to carry out an attack. But it's believed Simpson chose the target. An evangelical pastor close to Simpson says he was not surprised to hear Simpson's name connected with the Texas terror attack.
VOCAB MALONE, PASTOR, ROOSEVELT COMMUNITY CHURCH: He had expressed to me admiration specifically for bin Laden. He used the word hero, which surprised me at the time, but now that I understand his thinking better, it's actually not that surprising.
BROWN: We are also learning more about Simpson's accomplice, Nadir Soofi. According to "The Wall Street Journal," he bought an AK- 47 on Craigslist. Soofi's mother says her son had DVDs of the preachings of Anwar al-Awlaki, the former leader of al Qaeda in Yemen.
BROWN: And we learned today from the FBI Director James Comey that FBI agents saw Simpson's social media activity talking about the Texas event, and that is what prompted that warning. But he said the FBI had no idea Simpson was driving from his home here in Phoenix with his accomplice to launch that attack in Texas -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Pamela, thank you.
Let's get some more now on the FBI warning to the Texas police before the terror attack.
Our justice reporter, Evan Perez, he spoke with the FBI director, James Comey. He's also working his sources.
What else can you tell us?, Evan
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there's no indication that the Garland police really knew this was coming. They had no additional information, other than the fact that Elton Simpson had expressed interest online in this event, this very controversial cartoon event down there.
And also they provided his picture and his license plate. But, again, the FBI was watching, was keeping an eye on multiple people who it thought might be interested in this event. And so that's the issue there is, how do you keep track of so many people, which is what the FBI says it's struggling to do?
BLITZER: And the FBI director, James Comey, who is a very serious guy, obviously, he has a specific warning about more of these kinds of efforts down the road.
PEREZ: That's right, Wolf. He's getting on the phone tomorrow, in a secure phone call with state and local law enforcement all around the country and he is asking for their help. He describes trying to find these extremists who are being recruited and lured by ISIS people on social media as trying to find a needle in a haystack.
And he says the problem here is the needles are often invisible to him.
BLITZER: It's a tough, tough mission. They need a lot of personnel to keep surveillance on these people.
BLITZER: Apparently, they don't have it. We will see what he says in the course of these conversations. Evan, thank you very much.
Also breaking, a new blow to al Qaeda's most dangerous affiliate AQAP. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula says one of its senior commanders has been killed in a U.S. drone strike. The terror group has been emboldened by the civil war, the chaos in its home base of Yemen. But tonight there's a new call for a pause in the fighting.
Let's bring in our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott. She's working the story.
What is the latest, Elise?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's a big loss for AQAP. That conflict in Yemen has not only given the group more room to operate.
It's also created a humanitarian disaster on the ground. But now a potential cease-fire could be the key to stabilizing the country and disrupt al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's ability to plan attacks against the United States.
LABOTT (voice-over): Nasr Ibn Ali al-Ansi became one of the most public figures in AQAP in January, when he appeared in this video with his trademark two-tone beard and claimed credit for the attack on the "Charlie Hebdo" magazine in France.
But, tonight, in a new video obtained by CNN, the al Qaeda branch in Yemen is mourning al-Ansi, who once trained with Osama bin Laden and famously condemned the rival terror group ISIS for beheading Muslims.
A U.S. official tells CNN Washington believes al-Ansi is dead, but would not confirm he was killed by an American drone strike, as al Qaeda claims. The news of al-Ansi's death comes as Saudi Arabia today announced it would halt its air campaign against the rebels that have taken control of Yemen. The move is part of a five-day humanitarian cease-fire to allow delivery of desperately needed aid to civilians in Yemen.
The secretary of state, who is in the region, hailed it as a way forward.
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: No bombing, no shooting, no movement or repositioning of troops to achieve military advantage. This is a time for effective diplomacy and for potential solutions.
LABOTT: The bombing halt comes amid intense pressure to de- escalate the conflict as civilian deaths mount. But Saudi Arabia would not guarantee it will last.
ADEL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI ARABIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: This is all based on the Houthis complying with the cease-fire. There will be a cease-fire everywhere or a cease-fire nowhere.
LABOTT: Tonight, despite al-Ansi's death, al Qaeda continues to use the internal strife in Yemen to its advantage. And there remains concerns that the group is still capable of planning attacks from the West from Yemen.
LABOTT: And the proposed cease-fire comes a day after the Yemeni government called on the U.N. to send ground troops to stabilize the country. Secretary Kerry called that a nonstarter. He said this cease-fire is a major opportunity to begin a political process in Yemen. And he called on Iran, who is providing weapons and support to the Houthis, to use their influence on the rebels to get them to adhere to the cease-fire.
The hope is all this improvement in the situation on the ground will deny AQAP an ability to plan attacks against the U.S., Wolf.
BLITZER: And it's merely a hope right now. Let's see if it materializes. Elise, thank you.
Joining us now, Senator Tim Kaine. He's the Democrat from Virginia. He's a key member of both the Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees.
Senator, thanks very much for joining us.
SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: You bet, Wolf. Glad to be with you.
BLITZER: This senior al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader, this guy Nasr Ibn Ali al-Ansi, killed in a U.S. drone strike, do you have any information on whether he was the target of the strike or the U.S. simply got lucky and killed him?
KAINE: Wolf, I actually don't have any information that I can share about that, but the news is positive, although the situation in Yemen is very complicated between the Houthis, AQAP and ISIL presence, the Iranian backing of the Houthis and then Saudi Arabia and other nations trying to prop up the government.
It is a very complicated situation right now.
BLITZER: Certainly is.
What's the U.S. strategy, though, in dealing with AQAP in Yemen, now that the U.S. has pulled out of its embassy there, shut it down, moved military forces out? What is the strategy in dealing with arguably the most serious al Qaeda threat to the United States?
KAINE: Well, the AQAP branch is, as you point out, one of the most serious.
And the 2001 authorization that was passed by Congress still allows us to take action against them. But with the reduced footprint in Yemen, it does become more difficult. When we remove personnel, it does weaken the quantity and quality of some of the intelligence we have. But we're not giving up on still trying to play an important role there, and the cease-fire news is very positive because the humanitarian crisis is also something we should care deeply about.
BLITZER: Do you think that is serious, that cease-fire, that they could work out some diplomatic pause, if you will?
KAINE: It is steps like this often lead to a diplomatic pause. I don't think we can predict that this five-day humanitarian cease- fire will necessarily do that.
But you have to find these small steps and then try to build off them. And if the sides respect the cease-fire, it can obviously go on longer.
BLITZER: So, you believe that these drone strikes are a good thing, the U.S. should continue to target for assassination, if you will, or death these AQAP personnel?
KAINE: Wolf, here's what I think. Drones are a weapon like any other.
They're like a jet. They're like a tank. We do have a war that was declared in 2001 against al Qaeda. And there are still al Qaeda elements that threaten the United States. And so while I have grave concern about the war against ISIL not having been authorized by Congress -- today is the end of the ninth month of an undeclared, unauthorized war -- and I think Congress needs to take that up. The use of a military asset, whether it's a drone or other military asset, against al Qaeda members is something that I continue to support.
BLITZER: Do you see any hope that there is going to be this authorization for this war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria coming forward from Congress anytime soon?
KAINE: Wolf, I do.
We have just seen a pretty remarkable thing happen in the Senate today. A matter that was deeply partisan just two months ago, whether or not Congress should be able to review an ultimate nuclear deal with Iran, I worked on a bill, helped draft it with Senator Corker, passed out of the Foreign Relations Committee, completely unanimous, bipartisan, about a month ago.
And today, by 98-1 vote, because of the Foreign Relations Committee's action, the Senate approved an orderly and careful process for reviewing an important diplomatic deal with Iran if we get one. We are now going to turn our attention to the authorization for this nine-month war against ISIL. And if we can act in the Foreign Relations Committee in a bipartisan way on the Iranian nuclear negotiation, we can do it on this and our troops deserve it.
They have been fighting without any indication that Congress even cares about the war. We need to dig into this authorization. It's very complicated, but we can resolve differences and put our bipartisan support behind a mission that I think Americans see. ISIL is not shrinking. They're not going away. They're metastasizing and growing. The United States needs to take action. But Congress has to support it.
BLITZER: Well, when is that going to happen? When is there going to be a roll call vote on legislation authorizing the use of force against ISIS in Iraq and Syria?
KAINE: Wolf, I'll tell you, I think it's going to start in the Senate. I don't think you will see the House do anything if we don't.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has already had one vote on this in December, but an authorization died without floor action. But both Chairman Corker and ranking member Ben Cardin of Maryland have said that they want to take this up. They're looking for a path to find a bipartisan authorization.
Members of the committee are trading draft language on some of the challenging points. With the American public strongly supporting military action against ISIL, with probably three-quarters of both houses of Congress, bipartisan, supporting action against ISIL to some degree, we ought to be able to bridge over some of the differences and some key points and provide that kind of bipartisan support that we need to show ISIL that we have resolve, but our allies and our troops also deserve to see that show of unity from Congress.
BLITZER: You know the president's position. He says he already has the authority. He really doesn't need another vote in the United States Senate and the House of Representatives, but if you guys want to have a vote that supports what he's doing, go right ahead. You like that attitude he's got?
KAINE: No, I think, look, you would expect an executive to say we think we have authorities, but the president's legal authorities that they cite are based upon authorizations passed by Congress 14 or 15 years ago about different circumstances targeting different groups in different countries.
I think it is way too much of a stretch to take those authorizations and then say they apply here. And the members of Congress who were here then who voted on them say this never would have been within the contemplation of those authorizations. So the White House did send us a draft authorization in February.
They attempted to try to bridge some differences between Democratic and Republican positions, and, frankly, that effort sort of made nobody happy. But they do have a working template of an authorization that we're working with. Many of the White House provisions, I think, will be acceptable. There are probably three issues between Democrats and Republicans where there are some differences and we're trying to hammer those out now.
But, again, the vote today of a 98-1 vote in the Senate on an important and tough, difficult issue of Iranian nuclear diplomacy shows that we're taking these issues seriously again. And we can get to answer that will put congressional support behind the war against ISIL.
BLITZER: And, as you point out, it's now nine months since the start of this war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. You call it ISIL, ISIS, same organization.
Senator, we have more to discuss. Please stay with us. We will resume our conversation right after this.
BLITZER: We're back with Virginia Senator Tim Kaine.
The breaking news we're following, the FBI revealing it did, in fact, issue a warning to local police in Texas about the gunman, Elton Simpson, just hours before the terror attack over the weekend.
They issued a warning, but they didn't know he was on the way to Texas. Was there a problem here? Do you think there was some sort of intelligence failure, Senator?
KAINE: Well, you certainly have to look at it, Wolf.
As you know, one of the persistent challenges we have is, in a government this size, you know, one agency knowing something and do they promptly transmit it to another? Now, in this case, there was a transmittal of the information. Was it timely? We have to figure that out.
But, look, the way I see this situation is, once we start to see ISIL claiming credit for attacks in Libya and Yemen and Afghanistan and ISIL -- individuals inspired or influenced by ISIL even undertaking attacks here in the United States, any notion that this threat is just going to go away is wrong. It's metastasizing and growing.
And that's another reason why Congress has to take up the matter of this authorization and also sort of define the shape and scope of the mission, because the more places they are, that starts to change what the mission should be.
BLITZER: But some of the people who say Congress doesn't need to pass new authorization, they point out that ISIS or ISIL used to be al Qaeda in Iraq, and the war against al Qaeda already has that post-9/11 authorization. Your response to that?
KAINE: There are some who say that, Wolf. But I think if you look at the authorization that was passed three days after 9/11, here's what it said and here's what it didn't say.
It said that the Congress gave to the president the ability to take military action against those who perpetrated the attacks of 9/11. That's what it said. ISIL was not formed until 2003, two years after 9/11. ISIL is not an ally of al Qaeda. They're an enemy of al Qaeda. They're fighting against al Qaeda now.
President Bush did say to Congress at the time, give me the power to take military action against any terrorist group that means harm to the United States, and if Congress had passed that authorization, it would be a different matter. But Congress explicitly rejected that authorization. And I think that action of Congress shows that you can't just take the 9/11 authorization and stretch it to cover everybody. That's why we need a new war authorization.
BLITZER: How worried are you when the FBI director, James Comey, as he said today, suggesting that there are more plots in the works, ISIS attacks in the United States along the lines of what we saw in Texas a few days ago? Is that a serious threat from your perspective?
KAINE: I do think it's a serious threat, Wolf.
And I would say plots in the works, you know, there are all kinds of people, some folks who are kind of in the deranged or pathological side who are planning things, but, as we know, even one person with no connection to ISIL, and I'm not sure that there's any evidence that these individuals in Texas had any real connection, but if they can be targeted on social media and inspired by ISIL, one or two people can do an awful lot of very, very bad things. And so we tend to have a pretty good ability using domestic law
enforcement powers to stop them. But it just shows the extent of this threat and Congress can't pretend like it's going to go away or this problem will solve itself.
BLITZER: As you know, ISIS has supporters all over the country, sympathizers. And there's a report out there specifically in 19 states, including your state of Virginia, they say the fourth largest number ISIS sympathizers or supporters on social media, the fourth largest is in Virginia, that according to a study by the New America Foundation.
Is the U.S. right now local, state, federal authorities doing enough to protect American citizens from these homegrown terrorists?
KAINE: Wolf, I think no.
I don't think we're using enough creative strategies on the social media platforms to try to stop these threats and stop their ability to influence people. ISIL has shown a real sophistication in using social media to take advantage of vulnerable people, of people who are disaffected and angry or depressed. They have shown a great ability to do it.
And we need to work on social media platforms and also work with community leaders. There are some strong examples around the country of anti-radicalization efforts. But we need to take some of the best of those and make sure that they're available all across the nation.
BLITZER: One final question on the Iran nuclear deal that seems to be in the works. There's no deal yet. Let's see what happens, but Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, he was the lone dissenter, 98-1 vote.
He says he opposed it because he thinks this agreement, if there is an agreement, should be submitted to the Senate as a treaty demanding two-thirds majority vote. Your thoughts?
KAINE: Wolf, I oppose that for a couple of reasons.
First, this isn't a deal that rises to the level of a treaty under international law that would require a two-thirds vote. So this is normally in an area of the kind of a deal where the president could actually do it without congressional approval.
However, in this particular instance, because the negotiation is about what must Iran do to get out from under congressional sanctions, that's what has brought Iran to the table. Congress must have a role.
The other reason why I disagree with Senator Cotton is this. His argument would confine the congressional review only to the Senate. It would completely cut the House out of the process, when it was the House that was an equal partner with the Senate in erecting the congressional sanctions regime. So, we shouldn't cut the House out and we shouldn't call it a
treaty that requires a two-thirds vote, when it actually doesn't rise to the formal level of a treaty under international law.
BLITZER: Hey, Senator, thanks very much for joining us.
KAINE: All right, thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead: new fuel for critics who say the charges against six Baltimore police officers won't stick. We're going to tell you what we're learning tonight.
And after the death -- deaths of Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, other suspects, police chiefs across the nation, they are joining forces to consider changing tactics.
BLITZER: In Baltimore tonight, growing questions about the prosecution's case in the six police officers charged with the death of Freddie Gray. Sources now telling CNN about critical differences between the police investigation of Gray's death and the independent investigation by the state's attorney.
[18:31:03] Let's get some more from CNN's Rene Marsh. She's joining us from Baltimore. What are you learning, Rene?
RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, despite all of that, despite the inconsistencies, Wolf, Marilyn Mosby is standing firm on her decision, saying that her internal or independent investigation found evidence that supports the charges filed against the officers.
So what we have here in Baltimore, essentially two dueling investigations: the Baltimore City Police investigation on one side, and the investigation out of the prosecutor's office on the other.
MARILYN MOSBY, BALTIMORE STATE'S ATTORNEY: From the beginning we knew this was a serious case. We've been working independently.
MARSH: Two independent investigations, one by Baltimore police, the other by the Maryland state attorney's office.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That boy's legs look broke.
MARSH: CNN has now learned the investigations are in conflict. A key point of contention, the knife found on Freddie Gray.
MOSBY: The knife was not a switch blade and is lawful under Maryland law.
MARSH: Baltimore state's attorney Marilyn Mosby says under state law the knife is legal, making Freddie Gray's arrest illegal. But the police investigation contradicts that, based on city code. ANDREW ALPERSTEIN, BALTIMORE DEFENSE ATTORNEY: What is the knife
itself? Certainly, if the knife is a spring-assisted knife, case over for Officer Nero and Officer Miller. This case shouldn't even exist.
MARSH: Lawyers for officers Garrett Miller and Edward Nero have already filed motions asking to inspect evidence, specifically the knife. Charges against the officers, another point of contention. Officials familiar with the probe say at most, the police investigation contemplated manslaughter as the most serious charge, not second-degree murder, as Officer Caesar Goodson, the driver of the police van, was charged with.
MARSH: All right, Wolf. Besides criticism that Mosby perhaps acted very hastily, there is one other issue that could haunt her, and that is the top or one of the top investigators during her investigation. His name Avon Mackle. He's a high-ranking Baltimore City police officer. But he was demoted in 2009 be, and in a separate incident had a run-in with Baltimore Police. Some are questioning whether his past experience with Baltimore Police may mean he has an ax to grind. We did reach out to him for comment.
Also I want to point out, Wolf, Loretta Lynch was on Capitol Hill today, and said did say she acknowledged that Baltimore has made efforts to improve community policing but she says -- and I'm quoting her -- she has not ruled out the possibility that more can be done.
BLITZER: Loretta Lynch, the new attorney general of the United States. All right, Rene, thank you very much.
Let's bring back our justice reporter, Evan Perez, along with our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes and Cedric Alexander; and our legal analyst Sunny Hostin. Evan, what are you learning about the case against these six Baltimore police officers?
PEREZ: Well, Wolf, one of -- the lawyers for one of the officers has already gotten a subpoena approved to get all the notes and everything else from some of the homicide investigators who are working on the police investigation. What's at work there is the effort to try to get what police were learning from the medical examiner. The medical examiner let the police take notes and get contemporaneous what they were finding as they were doing the autopsy report on Freddie Gray.
Now what the defense there is looking for is any sign that there was an indication that the medical examiner's findings were heading in a different direction than where Marilyn Mosby's investigation ended up.
What we're told, Wolf, is that the police investigators believe that the autopsy would find something short of homicide, that it was perhaps more accidental death. And so now we reached out to the medical examiner's office. They say they've only had one conclusion ever. They never had a preliminary, that it was always one conclusion; and that it was a homicide. [18:35:13] BLITZER: Evan, stand by. I want to bring in Sunny.
Sunny, if you were the prosecuting attorney in this case, and you're a former prosecutor, would you have issued these charges, because as you know, there's a lot of concern out there, at least that some of these charges aren't going to hold up.
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I am surprised at the timing. I think when you're talking about an extremely difficult case, when you're talking about six separate defendants with separate charges, two weeks is a very quick investigation and certainly very quick to come up with the severity, the type of charges that she came up with, which are severe and difficult to prove, quite frankly.
And I think in this case the autopsy report is the linchpin of your case. And so if she just got this autopsy report the day before the charges were read, I am a bit skeptical of that just because you wouldn't have time, Wolf, as a prosecutor to have an independent expert -- really you want more than one -- review the autopsy reports to come to a conclusion. And so as a former prosecutor, I am surprised at how quickly she brought the charges.
But, to be clear, there's no question that Freddie Gray was injured in police custody. He was running, he was fine before his encounter with the police. So are charges appropriate in this case? I believe so. The only question is whether or not the evidence that she has will support the severity of the charges.
BLITZER: Especially against all six of these police officers as opposed to, let's say, two or three of them. And those are open questions as we know.
Cedric, we're learning that the homicide investigation run by the police investigators would have at most, they say, at most contemplated a manslaughter charge. That according to the indications we're getting. But the state's attorney, Marilyn Mosby, charged the Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. -- he was the driver -- with second-degree murder. That's a much more serious charge. How do you resolve this?
CEDRIC ALEXANDER, PRESIDENT, NOBLE: It's not unusual, Wolf, when you have two or three different investigations going on oftentimes they lead down the same road and in some ways, they may travel down different roads.
But I think as part of the process, the investigative process, what evidence that has been gathered in order to make this case is going to show itself. But I think this is just part of the initial process. This is a high-profile, highly charged case. Everyone is watching it. Everyone is under scrutiny in this case, even her investigator, her lead investigator.
But I think over time -- and I don't think it's going to be very long, either -- we're going to see the results of this investigation and what it all in the end will end up showing us. So I just think we have to be patient, but I don't think you can't be too speculative in a case such as this, because there's still a lot of work left to be done on the part of Ms. Mosby.
BLITZER: Tom Fuentes, let's talk about that, a former high- ranking Baltimore police officer who was actually stripped of his command for some irregularities and became a top investigator for the state's attorney, Marilyn Mosby. How big of a problem, potentially, could this be?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I don't know, Wolf. I don't know what -- what his involvement is in directing the investigation, and of course, he's not in a position to manufacture evidence, whether he likes the police or doesn't like them, hates the Baltimore P.D. Regardless, he's got to find facts, find evidence that can be presented in court. So I don't know how big of a problem that's going to be, unless he's irregular himself.
PEREZ: You know, I think the police investigation was going to bring charges. I mean, I think that's where this is going.
The question is, Wolf, whether these charges, these specific charges that the state attorney has brought, Marilyn Mosby, whether this is something that she can uphold. And if that -- and if this case collapses, what happens in Baltimore? What the reaction is going to be there? Whether or not she overreached and, in so doing, harms the larger process in Baltimore. That's the big question.
BLITZER: It's a huge question.
I want all of you to stand by. We're going to continue this conversation. We'll move on to some other bigger issues, including police departments all across the country. They're rethinking some of their strategies. Stay with us.
[18:43:53] BLITZER: Our legal and law enforcement experts are standing by. Right now we're getting word about possible changes in the works for police departments across the nation after deadly confrontations with suspects from Baltimore to Ferguson, Missouri.
Brian Todd is joining us now. He's got more information. What are you learning, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight hundreds of police chiefs and other officers from around the U.S. are in Washington, and they're having very serious discussions about the use of force: how to deescalate, avoid scenes like the Eric Garner takedown. It's a meeting that had already been planned but takes on serious urgency tonight, because we're reeling from yet another case of alleged police brutality that has left a city smoldering.
TODD (voice-over): You only have to look at some of the most notorious recent cell-phone videos. Freddie Gray is dragged to a police van, where he suffers a fatal injury. Walter Scott is shot in the back as he runs away. In New York, Eric Garner dies after being placed in a chokehold.
ERIC GARNER, ARRESTED BY POLICE: I can't breathe.
TODD: And in Ferguson, the incident that touched off a nation- wide debate over police tactics, a debate that's continued for nearly a year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hands up!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't shoot!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't shoot!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't shoot!
TODD: Tonight, police chiefs around the country are discussing how they believe policing in America is in crisis and street tactics have to change.
[18:45:05] CHIEF TOM MANGER, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MARYLAND POLICE: Any police chief in this country would be foolish not to look at those situations that they're seeing all over the country and saying, how could this have been avoided?
TODD: One tactic police are rethinking, the 21-foot rule -- the belief that an armed attacker bolting toward an officer can cover 21 feet in the time it takes a policeman to draw, aim and fire their weapon. It's been used to justify countless police shootings of suspects who have moved towards officers from inside 21 feet. Now, in training more emphasis is being placed on evasion and de-escalation, talking suspects down rather than taking them down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll work this out.
TODD: The NYPD, reeling from the Garner case, has been retraining thousands of officers since late last year.
Former New York Police Officer Don Bongino shows us how during a Garner-type engagement, an officer could change tactics.
DAN BONGINO, FORMER NEW YORK CITY POLICEMAN: Maybe the better way to train is a little wrist and elbow control. When you have the wrist and elbow it's not easy but see how your elbow goes with you? If I pull you and yank you and take your center of gravity with me, then you're going to move.
TODD: But some police unions are pushing back. Jeff Roorda in St. Louis says, quote, all this chatter just increases the idea that these encounters are avoidable and law enforcement is at fault. One former New York detective says his biggest fear with all this --
TOM VERNI, FORMER NYPD DETECTIVE: That some officers, especially the younger officers coming on now, are going to be apprehensive to take action and that's a nightmare. We don't want them to hesitate to take action. That hesitation could lead in their injury and/or death.
TODD: Law enforcement officials and experts we spoke to say there will be cases the public will be uncomfortable with what they see in a police encounter. Montgomery county, Maryland Police Chief Tom Manger says sometimes officers simply have to use force and it's never pretty -- Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're also hearing, Brian, and you've been hearing some really outside the box tactics now being reconsidered.
TODD: That's right. In New York and elsewhere, this is what they're looking at. In New York, maybe bringing in a female officer or are a suspect's mother to defuse a situation if that's possible in a given situation. New York is also working on methods to keep officers' egos and adrenaline in check to avoid confrontational scenarios. But a lot of law enforcement veterans are warning us tonight, it's gong to take a while. You can't just unlearn some of this behavior in a matter of weeks or months.
BLITZER: All right. Brian, thank you.
Let's bring back our analysts.
And, Cedric, let me ask you about the so-called 21-foot rule. Does it need to be rethought?
CEDRIC ALEXANDER, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it may need to be looked at again, Wolf, from the perspective of what is going on in the country today. But I what we have to be careful of here is that these type of tactics are going to be very different under different sets of circumstances. I think one thing that is very important that we've to begin to look at and that is how can we best deescalate and take evasive action.
But there are going to be times as well, too, as you've just heard where situations are not going to end up very pretty. But I think there's always the importance of it is very important that we look at the tactics we currently have in play. And if there's some ways in which we can change tactics that are going to keep our officers safe and allow them to do their job at the same time as well, too, we certainly do owe that to our officers and to the public. However, I think we have to be realistic in the sense, also keep in mind: it's a very dangerous profession and each one of these circumstances -- each one of these cases presents its own different set of circumstances.
BLITZER: Tom Fuentes, you agree?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, those tactics have been oftentimes developed over officer's blood. That 21-foot rule is always most scientific and it's been analyzed for years. As to if a subject comes at you with a knife, can you react? Can you draw and fire and stop it if he does a full charge? And they're saying, if you get much closer than that, it can't be
done. And if you miss one shot, you're a dead man. So not all these rules, they sound simple in the classroom or on TV, but they're not. And all I would say is let's simulate it. Let's get somebody with a rubber knife and a toy gun and let's see if 21 -- if you think 21 feet is enough if a person is coming at you.
And some of these other rules, it's the same issue, with whether to use, as Dan Bongino, the old bar hammerlock, that's great. If the guy is 340 pounds and a muscle man, it may not be so great. There's a lot of issues that go into what you do.
And I'll tell you what the simplest answer is, Wolf, and we've been saying it how many times, if people would comply, they'd be alive today to talk about it. Don't resist a police officer. Police officers do not have to be professional wrestlers, Harvard debaters, bring in psychiatrists, oftentimes negotiator. They'd have negotiator training.
You often don't want to bring a mother in because she may make it more volatile the way you saw the mother in Baltimore react. If you have that kind of reaction in a sense of a situation, it may tip the person into being violent.
BLITZER: It's clear each incident is an individual incident.
FUENTES: They absolutely are.
[18:50:00] BLITZER: All right. Sunny, I want you to look at this and I want our viewers to take a look at this. This is a video of a traffic stop in Tennessee this past weekend. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OFFICER: Open the damn door now! I'm going to shoot you in the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) face. Open it!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Sunny, this Nashville metro officer was decommissioned after the incident. The man he was screaming at was a former University of Tennessee football player who had valid permits for the pistol, the shotgun in his car.
Why do we keep seeing these kinds of things happening? And would a change in policing tactics prevent these things from happening?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, there has to be a change in police tactics. We all know that now. The answer is not, well, people must comply. Because you have a situation like this where there is no indication that this gentleman was not complying and there's no indication that the officer's actions were lawful. In fact, there's every indication that this officer's actions were unlawful.
And so, the answer is not just people need to comply. The answer is police officers need more training, police officers need sensitivity training, they need training in terms of de-escalation, I think they need body cameras, they need to participate in community policing programs.
There isn't one magic bullet, no pun intended. But certainly, changes need to be made. I mean, we're seeing this epidemic quite frankly across our country of excessive use of force by police officers and there's just no question that these tactics need to be revisited and they need to be changed.
How many young African men need to die before we all admit that there is a problem?
BLITZER: Let me ask Evan about the new attorney general, Loretta Lynch. Do you expect any significant changes from her as the attorney general compared to her predecessor?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: You know, I think we're already seeing a change in tone, Wolf. I think Attorney General Eric Holder was criticized a lot for not saying things to back up police officers. I think Tom and a few others thought he should have been a little more forthcoming in backing up police officers. Even though, you know, his own brother was a former cop.
I think Loretta Lynch is already trying to -- she went to Baltimore. She went and visited the police, talked about the injured police officers that were injured during the riots. I think she's trying to set a different term. She will still however launch these investigations because there clearly is a problem.
BLITZER: All right. We've got much more news coming up. Guys, stand by. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: We're standing by for raw results from a critical election for one of America's closest allies and partners in the war against ISIS, other terror groups. It's been billed as one of the closest votes in the history of the United Kingdom.
Right now, early exit polls suggest David Cameron, the prime minister, may actually hold on to his job with his Conservative Party possibly even gaining seats in parliament. But the opposition Labour Party is disputing those exit polls. The final outcome could reshape Britain's relationship with the United States, the European Union and the NATO alliance.
Stand by. Tonight's results in Britain may also reveal whether there's renewed political support for Scottish independence.
CNN's Anthony Bourdain recently traveled to Scotland. He shared some of the local flavor on the next episode of "PARTS UNKNOWN".
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ANTHONY BOURDAIN, PARTS UNKNOWN: Glasgow has a reputation of a
hard drinking, two-fisted town.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
BOURDAIN: I've always found it to be this funny, very funny town. I mean, everybody --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very dark humor. You say in America, my father's died. People immediately are so sympathetic. In Glasgow, you say my father's died, Glaswegians say, what size was he shoes?
BOURDAIN (voice-over): Janie Gadley (ph) grew up in the east end, married into an organized crime dynasty, worked as a bartender, became a very famous playwrite, author and stand up comedian.
I thought I would meet her here, a very old school institution.
Janie is working some goat cheese thing with figures. For me, Scottish oysters are an irresistible impulse. They are magnificent, by the way.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What a lot of people abroad don't understand is the women are the backbone of the many of the communities because the men were always drunk and working in the shipyards and dying young. And that still exists, Tony. The age expectancy is still 55. In Fallujah, Iraq, it's 65.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: "ANTHONY BOURDAIN: PARTS UNKNOWN", living in Scotland. It airs this Sunday night 9:00 p.m. Eastern. You'll want to check it out. Always, always a good show from him.
Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Please tweet me at Wolf Blitzer. You can always tweet the show @CNNsitroom. Please be sure to join us again right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
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Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.