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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
China Constructing Artificial Islands in South China Sea; FBI Launching Investigations Into Student Dragging. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired October 27, 2015 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Beijing said it had tracked a U.S. Navy warship that came very close to one of the artificial islands that China is constructing in the South China Sea's disputed waters, the communist country issuing a stark warning to the U.S. that there could be consequences.
CNN chief security national correspondent Jim Sciutto joins us now.
Jim, you have seen these bizarre manmade islands firsthand.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I did. They're just mammoth feats of construction right in the middle of the South China Sea.
China turning rocky atolls into 2,000 acres of land over the past two years, equipping them with airstrips, ports and what the U.S. military believes are military barracks, even artillery, all on seas the U.S. considers international and on piles of rocks the U.S. does not consider to be land.
This transit by this U.S. destroyer intended to send that message.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): The voyage of the guided missile destroyer USS Lassen sparked immediate outrage from China and a warning.
LU KANG, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN (through translator): If relevant parties insist on creating tensions in the region and making trouble out of nothing, it may force China to draw the conclusion that we need to strengthen and hasten the buildup of our relevant capabilities. I advise the U.S. not to create such a self- fulfilling prophecy.
SCIUTTO: But Defense Secretary Ash Carter testifying on Capitol Hill today made clear the missions will continue.
ASHTON CARTER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: We will fly, sail and operate wherever international law permits in whatever -- whenever our operation needs require it. SCIUTTO: The USS Lassen sailed within 12 miles of five reefs
claimed by China as sovereign territory, including Subi Reef, where China has constructed one of several manmade islands.
The Chinese Defense Ministry said Chinese navy ships and aircraft trailed the USS Lassen at all times. During the transit, one of the Chinese vessels contacted the Lassen's bridge, standard procedure when entering a country's national waters. But the U.S. doesn't recognize China's territorial claim as legal or the manmade islands as territory as all.
And this isn't the first time the U.S. Navy has delivered that message. In May, we flew exclusively on a U.S. P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft as it flew over the same islands, a demonstration the U.S. considers the airspace international as well. During the flight, the Chinese Navy warned the U.S. aircraft away eight times.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perimeter aircraft, this is Chinese Navy. You are approaching our military alert zone. Leave immediately.
SCIUTTO: The growing international dispute was on the agenda for Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to Washington earlier this month. The confrontation on the high seas makes clear the two sides have made little progress towards resolution.
SCIUTTO: Now, sailing a warship within 12 miles of these islands is the most serious U.S. protest to date. China certainly noticing.
The Chinese ambassador telling Christiane Amanpour a short time ago that it's a provocation militarily and politically and also called the U.S. political -- rather, hypocritical for responding to what it says is militarization by sailing a warship by these islands.
But it's more than just a war of words at this point because you have U.S. and Chinese military assets very close to each other.
TAPPER: What could this actually mean? How could the Chinese military actually respond?
SCIUTTO: There are whole gradations that they can happen in succession. You could have a Chinese warship challenge one, cut across the bow, that kind of thing, which leads to whole other possibilities. Do you run into each other?
And that's the concern, that something that starts small can take these steps and go to a place where neither side can pull back.
TAPPER: Remember 14 years ago when China had some American military personnel in custody for some time.
TAPPER: Jim Sciutto, thanks so much. In our national lead, a female student slammed by a body-building
school officer and dragged across a classroom after she refused to leave on her own repeatedly. Now we're learning more about this officer's history and other claims of violence -- that story next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
The national lead now, the FBI is now launching an investigation into a South Carolina classroom incident that has sparked outrage across the country. That man is a sheriff's deputy working as a high school resource officer, yanking a female student out of her desk and dragging her across the floor.
This incident happened yesterday at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina. Two other students captured the incident on their cell phones. Of course, we do not see what led up to this encounter, not that that would necessarily justify anything.
But CNN's Jason Carroll has been looking into all the details of this case.
Jason, what are you learning?
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in terms of this sheriff's deputy, in terms of his past, Jake, he's been both praised and vilified in his past.
Just within the past hour or so, the school district held a press conference where the superintendent stood up and said after watching that video, he said it was both reprehensible and unforgivable.
CARROLL (voice-over): South Carolina Sheriff's Deputy Ben Fields' job now in question, as are his actions, this after his violent takedown of a high school student was caught on camera Monday.
You can see the deputy tossing a female student to the ground, after she refused to get up from her desk, then throwing her across the classroom floor. Parents stunned after viewing the video.
DR. HUGH HARMON, BLACK PARENTS ASSOCIATION: Most school resource officers are great people. They do awesome work in our schools. But this is a shame. To get a phone call that that would have happened to my daughter, I don't know how I would have responded.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you see a video like what we have seen earlier today, it certainly alarms you and makes you a little bit afraid of what is actually happening within our schools.
CARROLL: According to authorities, the Spring Valley High School student was asked to leave the classroom. When she refused that request from her teacher and a school administrator, Fields, who is also a school resource officer, was called to arrest her.
The school board calling the video extremely disturbing, and has banned the deputy from all of the district schools, pending an investigation.
LT. CURTIS WILSON, RICHLAND COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: We don't want everyone to rush to judgment, but we also feel that the video was very, very disturbing.
CARROLL: Fields, now on paid administrative duty, pending the outcome of the sheriff's department's own investigation into what happened.
The sheriff cautioning it is still unclear what occurred before cameras started rolling.
WILSON: We will have to look at this in its totality to understand exactly what happened. Is this a pattern? Is this something that he's done before?
CARROLL: Deputy Fields has been the subject of two lawsuits in the last 10 years. In 2007, a couple claimed he used excessive force when questioning them about a noise complaint. The plaintiff says Fields slammed him to the ground, cuffed him and began kicking him, but the jury ruled in Fields' favor in 2010.
In 2013, a student claimed Fields falsely accused him of being involved in a gang, the school expelling him, that lawsuit still ongoing. The deputy has been working for the school district for seven years and was recently awarded the Culture of Excellence Award in 2014 for proving to be what they say was an exceptional role model to the students.
He also serves as a football coach at the school.
CARROLL: And that student who you see there who was pulled out of that chair, we are told she is 16 years old. Jake, she faces a charge of disturbing schools.
There was also a second student who was arrested facing that same charge. Apparently, this student, an 18-year-old female student, stood up when this whole thing was taking place. She apparently protested in some way. She was arrested and, again, faces that same charge of disturbing schools as well -- Jake.
TAPPER: Jason Carroll, thank you.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott joins me now. His department employs Deputy Ben Fields.
Sheriff, thanks so much for joining us.
Is the deputy offering any explanation for his actions?
LEON LOTT, RICHLAND COUNTY, SOUTH CAROLINA, SHERIFF: Well, one correction I would like to make is that he's not on paid leave. He's been suspended without pay. That was done yesterday.
What we're doing is, we're doing an investigation internally on, did he violate any of our policies, procedures? I called the FBI in last night and asked them to conduct a criminal investigation, so the civil rights violation from them and the United States attorney is on my request.
We're only looking at the policy violation.
TAPPER: We have been told that an instructor told this 16-year- old girl to leave class several times. The assistant principal was called in before Deputy Fields was. And now this teen faces a charge of disturbing schools, along with the other student not seen in the videos.
But here's the big question. She's sitting at a chair -- on a chair. She doesn't appear to be threatening in any way. She doesn't have any weapon. Is there anything, anything at all that could justify this deputy treating this teenage girl like this?
LOTT: Well, there's a third video too that's been shown that another student took off though that showed her striking and punching at the officer.
Again, our hope would have been that he could have de-escalated the situation without having to get physical. All the things leading up to him putting his hands on her resulted as her being disruptive to the class and the school administration is trying to solve it, they couldn't solve it, so they called the officer in and asked him to remove her from the class.
Now, his actions after he put his hands on her disturb me, just like anybody else who saw it. That's why we have taken the actions that were taken and we're going to continue to take appropriate actions.
TAPPER: Are you going to release this third video? And can you clarify exactly what this third video shows?
LOTT: It's not one I have. It's another student that was in the class that was shooting it from a different angle.
It showed the officer as he puts his hands on her, her punching him. But, again, that doesn't justify some of the actions that we have seen from the officer afterwards, and that's what I have to deal with. Just because she was wrong in what she was doing doesn't make what he was doing completely right also.
So that's what we're dealing with, any policy violations, and that will determine his employment. The FBI and the United States attorney's office, they will determine if there's any criminal charges brought against him. TAPPER: Have you spoken with the girl?
LOTT: I just -- I was at a conference and I just got back into my office within the last hour, so I cut my law enforcement conference short to come back to personally deal with this.
So, no, I have not had the opportunity to speak with anybody at this point, except reporters.
TAPPER: Have you spoken to the deputy?
It's not necessary for me to speak to the deputy. We have an internal affairs division. They have conducted the investigation and they are just about finished with it. So, I should have the results by tomorrow and be able to make my decision very shortly.
TAPPER: But just to clarify, sir, you're saying there is a third video belongs to a student and it shows that after the deputy put hands on this 16-year-old girl, she put hands on him back?
LOTT: That's correct. She resisted. You know, I think the video showed that she did resist. But again, I am looking at what my officer did, what was his actions, what did he do. That's what I'm concerned about.
TAPPER: All right. Sheriff Leon Lott, thank you for joining me. I appreciate your time, sir.
LOTT: Thank you.
TAPPER: As Jason Carroll mentioned, this is not the first time this officer has been accused of using excessive force. And my next guest took him to court, sued him over a violent encounter. We'll hear from him next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Let's pick back up with this national lead. The FBI now looking into acts of a school resource officer, sheriff's deputy, who yanked a 16-year-old girl, a student, and dragged her across the floor.
[16:50:01] Two cell phone videos show the takedown yesterday at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina. We just talked to the sheriff at Richland County, who says a third video captured by another student shows the girl, in his view, resisting arrest after the deputy put hands on her. That video's not yet been made public.
This officer, we should point out, is no stranger to controversy. He's been named in two prior lawsuits, one goes to trial this coming January, and the other case, Deputy Fields was cleared of wrongdoing. That case was brought by Carlos Martin in 2007.
Carlos joins us now.
Carlos, we should point out, is an army veteran, a sergeant who served in Bosnia.
Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
CARLOS MARTIN, FILED 2007 LAWSUIT AGAINST BEN FIELDS: Thank you, sir, for having me here.
So, Carlos, what was your reaction when you learned that this deputy was the man you sued and when you see this video?
MARTIN: Well, first of all, I never had an opportunity to go to court for my lawsuit. My lawyer did me wrong and had the case dismissed without my permission. Second, when I saw the video, it reminds me of all of the nightmares and what I've been going through for ten years. And if Sheriff Lott would have did the right job the first time that this young lady would never be going through what she's going through right now, you know?
This is what he did to me and my wife. You know, his partner Joseph Clarkton (ph) beat up Tasyana (ph), slammed her to the ground the same way, handcuffed, with her arms behind her back.
TAPPER: You say that Deputy Fields confronted you and your wife outside your apartment in 2005 after a noise complaint. You're allegedly playing music too loudly. You say Fields slammed you to the ground, kicked you, maced you, there was no video evidence, although there is photographic evidence.
A jury in your civil suit sided with Deputy Fields.
What do you say to any viewers out there who are skeptical of your story, saying, hey, you had your day in court and the jurors heard the evidence and sided with Deputy Fields?
MARTIN: First of all, I never had my day in court. Jurors never heard my story, I want you guys to understand that. Tasyana went to court, and when she went court, they didn't allow me to be part of her court case. So, I'm still looking to have my day in court. I went to the 4th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court. So, I'm still looking for my day in court.
TAPPER: Do you think what happened yesterday will help you if you appeal this case?
MARTIN: I think the video pictures, by me going forward with my case and the young lady going forward with her case is not just about us, but it's everyone about walking the street and everyone's safety.
TAPPER: Carlos --
MARTIN: It's not just about us, but --
TAPPER: Go ahead. I'm sorry.
MARTIN: It's not just about us. It's about protecting our fathers, our sisters, our brothers and our children.
TAPPER: And, Carlos, you allege in your lawsuit that you believe race was a factor. Why did you think that?
MARTIN: Oh, absolutely. And he admitted it, everything in the internal affairs report, which you can get. They give you the documentation. He's making different comments about how he's glad Johnnie Cochran's dead, nothing but another notch on his belt, welcome to the South, he called me a nigger, so many remarks he admits to, it's nothing more than that because he's supposed to be looking for a white male flashing little kids before he attacked me.
TAPPER: Carlos Martin, thank you so much for joining me. And thank you for your service, sir.
MARTIN: Thank you.
TAPPER: We should mention, we are expecting a news conference from the Richland County Sheriff's Department in just a few minutes.
In our money lead, nearly 1.5 million cars have been recalled because they could catch on fire. The car manufacturer has not figures out a way to figure out a way to solve the problem. Yikes! That's next.
[16:58:03] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Time for our money lead -- 1.4 million, that is the number of cars General Motors plans to recall because they could catch fire. This recall is the third intended to fix the same problem since 2007. GM said more than 1,300 of its vehicles caught fire even after they were, quote, "fixed by dealers." So, even if you had your car repaired before, you will need to take it back to the dealer.
The affected cars from model years 1997 through 2004. They include Pontiacs, Chevys, and the Buick Regale. General Motors says it is aware of 19 reported minor injuries tied to the problem but so far no crashes and no deaths.
Black Friday is when most stores become profitable, hence, Black Friday coming out of the red. But one store is taking a stand against the day. Outdoor chain REI will be closing all 143 of its stores on one of the busiest shopping days of the year, giving all 12,000 of its full and part-time employees a paid day off, and encouraging customers to spend the day outside instead of inside shopping.
REI has no shareholders to please, you might surmise. It is the largest retail coop with 5.5 million members who account for nearly 90 percent of the company sales. Members pay a one-time fee, and receive an annual dividend, about 10 percent of their purchases that year. The company's CEO says this move is because it's more valuable to bring in new, passionate members than to compete for retail bargains.
Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JakeTapper or you can tweet the show @TheLeadCNN. We actually read them.
Join us tomorrow when RNC Chair Reince Priebus and Senator Cory Booker will be my guests.
That's it's for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
I'll now turn you over to one Mr. Wolf Blitzer who is in next door in this place we like to call "THE SITUATION ROOM".