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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Preliminary Autopsy Rules Bland's Death A Suicide; New Questions After Dashcam Video Of Arrest; Obama's Africa Travel Schedule Published; NASA Spots "Earth's Bigger, Older Cousin" Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired July 23, 2015 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: -- Sandra Bland's death in a Texas jail cell a suicide. Now an inmate in the cell next door is talking to CNN about what she heard in the minutes before the tragic death. We'll have that story, next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We have some new information in our National Lead. Preliminary autopsy results have been released after the death of Sandra Bland, the woman who died in a Texas jail cell.
A medical examiner ruled her death a suicide. It has been almost two weeks since a trooper pulled over the 28-year-old for failing to signal while changing lanes. That traffic stop escalated quickly.
Bland ended up in jail where she died three days later. How did she die? Well, now intake documents from the jail show Bland indicated that she had tried to kill herself last year after losing a baby.
The question then, so why wasn't she on suicide watch? Well, CNN's Ed Lavandera joins me live in Hempstead, Texas, near Houston. He's outside the jail where Bland died. You talked to an inmate who was in the jail cell near Sandra Bland's. What did she have to say?
[16:35:04] ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is an interesting picture. This is a woman who was across the hall from where Sandra Bland was being held for the three days. The picture she paints is very consistent with what officials here in Waller County have been saying.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): A Waller County Jail inmate who was being held in a cell across from Sandra Bland tells CNN, she did not hear any commotion or screaming, suggesting foul play before the 28-year- old woman was found dead.
This is consistent with the nearly three hours of jailhouse video released, showing nothing unusual outside Bland's cell before Bland's body was found by a sheriff's deputy.
The woman, who asked not to be identified, tells CNN Bland was emotional and often crying during her three days in the jail. The inmate said she spoke with bland twice.
She says Bland was worried about not being able to connect with family members and stressed over missing her first day of work at her new job. Bland's family has insisted they do not believe the 28-year- old woman would not kill herself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We take issue with the notion that she was suffering from depression. She was never clinically diagnosed, there were no medication we were aware of that she was taking to address any sort of epilepsy or depression.
LAVANDERA: This afternoon, Waller County officials held a press conference with new details from Bland's autopsy report. Officials say while the investigation is not finished, the report shows high levels of marijuana in Bland's system and as many as 30 cut marks on her wrist. The report does not show any signs of a violent struggle.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was no indication of any hemorrhaging or any damage to her hyoid bone. The same holds true for her trachea and her esophagus and any other internal organs inside her neck. During a violent struggle, one would typically expect to see hemorrhaging or injuries to those particular body portions.
LAVANDERA: But Bland's medical intake records are not consistent. On one page, it shows Bland attempted to commit suicide in the last year after a miscarriage by taking pills. But then on another page, the question of whether she's attempted suicide is "no." It's the inconsistencies that make the Bland family skeptical.
SHARON COOPER, SANDRA BLAND'S SISTER: I have a hard time dealing with inconsistency and that seems to have been the theme over the last couple of days here. So I don't have a problem still asking questions.
LAVANDERA: And social media has seized on all sorts of possible conspiracies. Some are even suggesting Sandra Bland's mug shot was taken after she had died. Despite that it was on her booking sheet made available right after she was arrested.
LAVANDERA: Jake, also county officials pointing out too if this were some sort of murder case or some sort of violent struggle had taken place that there would be signs of Sandra Bland fighting back, and they pointed out that on her hands and knuckles, there was no damage.
No indication that she was fighting back or in some sort of defensive mode as would be normally the case in bodies that have been victims of murder so another one of those indications that county officials are pointing people towards here today -- Jake.
TAPPER: Ed Lavandera, thank you so much. Of course, a lot of people focusing now on the big question,
did Sandra Bland need to be in that jail cell to begin with? Let's talk about that now with Eugene O'Donnell. He is a former New York City police officer, now a lecturer at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Also with me, Redditt Hudson, he is a former St. Louis police officer and is now on the National Coalition of Law Enforcement Officers for Justice.
Eugene, let me start with you. In the dash cam video, we see the trooper, Brian Encygnia (ph) pull bland over. He walks to the passenger's side of her car then he goes back to his cruiser and writes her a warning for failing to put on her turn signal.
What do you think he should have said when he returned to her car with the warrant?
EUGENE O'DONNELL, FORMER NYPD POLICE OFFICER: I mean, he's a rookie officer. So this is a real case for mentoring and not personalizing these things, which appears to be what happened here. The part I'm surprised about is he didn't immediately tell her when he came back to the car, this is a warning.
He seemed to let it play out and escalate. I don't know why he did that, but that didn't seem, when you look at it, to be a wise course of action. She started to vent, he start to do give as good as he got. I don't understand why he didn't immediately say it's a warning.
TAPPER: He's do that and it defuses the situation, the passenger knows, OK, this is about to be over. I get what you're saying. Shortly after he gets back to the car, Redditt, we hear the trooper's tone change. Let's take a listen to that part of the tape?
UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: Are you OK?
SANDRA BLAND: I'm waiting on you. You -- this is your job. I'm waiting you on.
UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: You seem very irritated.
BLAND: I really am. Until I move over, and you stop me, so yes, I am irritated, but that doesn't stop you from giving me a ticket.
[16:35:00] UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: Are you done?
BLAND: You asked me what's wrong, and I told you.
UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: OK.
BLAND: So now I'm done, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: OK, do you mind putting out your cigarette, please? Do you mind?
BLAND: I'm in my car. I don't have to put out my cigarette.
UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: Well, you can step on out now.
BLAND: I don't have to step out.
TAPPER: That escalated quickly. Redditt, why ask her to step out of the car?
REDDITT HUDSON, NATIONAL COALITION OF LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS FOR JUSTICE: Well, first of all, why ask her if she's irritated or not. That has nothing to do with you executing your duty as an officer. You should have issued the warning, as Eugene said and ended the stop. Head escalated that intentionally, I believe, especially when he's asking her to put out her cigarette when the ticket is already being signed.
It's unnecessary, and I think it was an intentional effort on his part to engage her in a confrontation, which did escalate as he intended.
TAPPER: Then we see the trooper take her out of the car, Eugene. We can hear Bland repeatedly ask the trooper why she's being apprehended. Let's listen to a little of that.
UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: Step out or I will remove you.
BLAND: I refuse to talk to you other than to identify myself --
UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: Step out or I will remove you. Step out or I will remove you. I'm giving you a lawful order. Get out of the car now or I'm going to remove you. I'm going to yank you out of here.
BLAND: OK, all right, let's do this.
UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: Yes, you're going to --
BLAND: Don't touch me.
UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: Get out of the car!
BLAND: Don't touch me.
UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: You are under arrest.
BLAND: I'm under arrest for what?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Eugene, does any of that make sense to you? O'DONNELL: We haven't heard the officer's account, but this is a common issue. It's hard to get personalities out of this, the officer's personality, the individual's personality, no matter how good the training is, but it's really incumbent for the cops to stay out of the personality stuff.
The only thing I think we are not good at, a couple issues have to come to mind, we're not going good at training the police how to recognize mental health and people that have raised-up conditions.
One thing that's very hard to teach well is when to back out, not to keep digging. You are seeing a situation. Somebody is acting for something that is a minor trivial. If you look at this pullover, it's a nothing offense.
This person is really not taking well to what you're doing. Just get out of the situation. If you can, again, I would like to hear what the officer has to say in his defense, but get out of the situation. You're only giving a warning.
It's the most trivial of trivial offenses. If this cop stays in the job, any police person that takes these things personally takes them into heart and I got to go the distance because this is a cop that will be doing traffic enforcement.
He is a trooper. So you're going to get people that don't like you every day. You have to live with that.
TAPPER: Redditt, police officers do need to assert control in some instances. Where is the line? When do you need to assert control as a police officer or state trooper and when do you just like back away and say none of this is worth it? This is just silly.
HUDSON: You have control upon your arrival. You have already stopped a citizen because you are the law. So he was in control, and you need to control your own actions when you're dealing with people and see them as human beings.
Probably for me, Jake, before I get off the air, I have to say I'm deeply troubled, as are many of my colleagues, by this idea that she killed herself at the jail. Here's a young lady who had everything to live for.
We flat-out don't believe that she killed herself in that circumstance. Just because you don't hear anything, someone can be choked out silently in in a jail cell and the person next to them won't hear anything.
So ultimately the biggest problem with this stop, in spite of everything that every law enforcement officers I've heard says is wrong with it, is that Sandra Bland is dead as a result of it, under very questionable circumstances. I would like to see what the independent autopsy shows.
TAPPER: We will bring that news when we get it. Redditt Hudson, Eugene O'Donnell, thank you so much. Appreciate you both. When we come back, normally secret travel information published
as President Obama heads overseas now a concern about his safety as terrorist chatter nearby increases.
Plus a twin earth, a brand-new NASA discovery that looks a lot like our planet. That story is ahead.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In other world news today, President Obama departs this evening for a four-day trek to Africa, where he will attend an economic summit in his father's homeland of Kenya, and then head to Ethiopia.
But the trip is not without major security concerns, after it was revealed that the normally secret arrival and departures times for Air Force One were released by Kenya's Aviation Authority. This of course comes at a time with increased terror chatter online from al- Shabaab militants in Eastern Africa.
Joining me to talk about the security concerns is former Secret Service Agent Daniel Bongino. Dan, thanks so much for being here. We should mention that your brother is currently an active agent in the United States Secret Service.
You served on President Obama's security detail. You did the advance for trips to Afghanistan, Indonesia. The White House insists it is not concerned about the Kenyan authorities releasing this information.
But how big of a security breach do you think this is in reality? What kind of talk are Kenyan authorities getting right now?
DANIEL BONGINO, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: It's not the most grave security breach I have ever seen, but it's certainly serious. Jake, the White House obviously has to play a political side, and I don't blame them for saying that, but of course, they're going to be concerned.
[16:50:06] The reason I would be concerned, as a former agent having done numerous foreign advances especially in Kenya, that region of the world, is the glide path of the airplane, Air Force One, when they land and take off, that's one of the most dangerous things we do, one of the threats we try to mitigation with a tremendous amount of assets.
Disclosing the landing times and departure times and locations, you know, it's pretty serious. Not a grave threat. You can mitigate it and manage it, but certainly serious enough to warrant some concerns.
TAPPER: What adjustments do you think the Secret Service might be taking right now? BONGINO: I would be surprised if it didn't. I think the Secret Service at this point is definitely taking what we call an op-sec concern, operational security with information.
They were probably sharing a lot of their information with the Kenyan authorities by necessity. I'm not saying they are not going to do that now, but I will bet that their inner circle of people who have access to the schedule and the most sensitive data has probably shrunken significantly on the Kenyan side.
I would be stunned if they didn't alter the times of the arrival and departure, and even potentially the airport, if that's an option in that region.
TAPPER: In 2002 Islamic militants fired two surface-to-air missiles at an Israeli plane. The missiles thankfully missed their targets. What kind of advanced scouting do you think the Secret Service might be doing right now to make sure that al-Shabaab or any other terrorist group that might have sophisticated weapons doesn't come close to Air Force One?
BONGINO: Yes, that is the big concern, those airborne threats, the surface to air threats. That's been a concern for a very long time. Without getting into any of the technical specifications, the airplane has some, say, some measures on it to protect against those very specific threats.
But also there are a number of ground-based things they do to get, one, to secure the perimeter in concentric circles, Jake, you have an outer perimeter, a middle perimeter and an inner perimeter, and each of those perimeters have different levels of security.
When you have an airport, it's one of those areas where the outer perimeter security can be held to a standard just as high as the inner perimeter. That would differ even at the White House. You don't have the same level of security around the oval office as you do on Pennsylvania Avenue.
But airports the Secret Service takes very seriously, and I'll bet now they are upping the manpower on that external perimeter around that airport, and the Kenyan authorities don't want to be embarrassed here either, Jake.
They know what they're doing. They've been through this. You know, the region has got a moderate terror threat. I wouldn't be overly dramatic about it.
But they know what they're doing, and I'll bet they're throwing everything but the kitchen sink out there at it and they are probably bringing their A-team for this. There are no C-team are showing for this trip.
TAPPER: All right, Dan Bongino, thanks so much. Good to see you again. Wolf Blitzer is here with a preview of "THE SITUATION ROOM." FBI Director James Comey made some rather candid comments to you yesterday at the Aspen Security Conference including that ISIS has supplanted al Qaeda as the nation's number terror threat.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Yes, he was blunt. He really didn't mince any words. He says ISIS is a much bigger terror threat to the U.S. homeland right now than al Qaeda. He says the Khorasan Group, this other split-off group from al Qaeda in Syria that's been greatly diminished, thanks to U.S. and coalition airstrikes.
And he goes in, but he does have a lot of concern about what's going on right now especially what ISIS can do in communicating through encrypted means with various sympathizers, supporters out there, and the FBI has some serious problems on how to deal with this. He goes into depth on that.
TAPPER: Yes, we heard John Cornyn earlier talking about trying to get the tools to go into those encrypted messages.
BLITZER: The problem is that, you know, worrying about own privacy.
TAPPER: Indeed, Wolf Blitzer looking forward to that "SITUATION ROOM" in 6 minutes.
When we come back, a major space discovery, there's another planet out there nearly identical to earth, we're told. Are there any signs of life? That story is next.
TAPPER: Welcome back. Our Money Lead now, it looks like people are not exactly loving it, McDonalds today reporting a 10 percent drop in quarterly sales and earnings. That's just enough to beat Wall Street's paltry expectations, but McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook, still called the results disappointing especially since the company just unveiled a turnaround plan in May.
The next big challenge is giving raises. McDonalds in April announced plans to give 90,000 workers more money. Calls for minimum wage hikes are only getting louder.
It's a win for Uber, the popular ride-sharing app giving taxis a run for their money. New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio has put the brakes on his controversial plan to regulate the company, at least for now.
De Blasio had proposed a cap on the number of licenses issued to Uber and other competitors like Lyft. Uber responded by launching a television campaign against the plan and even introduced a feature to its app that showed the delays if the regulations went through.
New York, for its part is not chalking this up as a loss, since Uber has agreed to be conservative with its expansion in the city. I'm sure they'll keep that promise.
Our out of this World Lead today, move over Pluto, we've got our sights on a new planet now. NASA today announcing they spotted earth's bigger older cousin. That's NASA's word, not mine, the first nearly earth-sized planet to be found in a zone that could sustain life.
NASA cannot say for sure if the new planet named Kepler 452B has water or air, but it is the closest match yet to earth. It takes 385 days for this planet to orbit its star similar to our 365-day orbit around the sun. Since its some 6 billion years old, NASA says it had plenty of time to brew life. The planet is 1,400 light years from earth. Pluto meanwhile is just 300 some light minutes.
That's it for THE LEAD. Turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."