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Runaway Blimp Knocks Power Lines, F-16's Scrambled; GOP 2016 Hopefuls to Face-Off Tonight; All Eyes on Carson As He Surges in Polls. Aired 7-8:00p ET

Aired October 28, 2015 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:09] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, U.S. fighter jets scrambled across the northeast, a massive military surveillance blimp mysteriously breaking loose.

Plus, GOP showdown once again, Donald Trump out in the front and center at tonight's debate. Can he retake his lead at will Ben Carson deliver?

And breaking news, the school officer caught on tape throwing that student across that classroom fired. But tonight he's fighting back, he says he did nothing wrong. We have a special guest. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news. A massive military blimp out of control. The blimp crash landing after a frantic chase by F-16 fighter jets. Now, the blimp was heading for heavily populated New England when it lost control, you see it there. It wreaked havoc on a Pennsylvania town striking down power lines cutting power to 30,000 people. Now, the military couldn't shoot the nearly $200 million blimp down out of fear the 7,000 pound air ship could have exploded. The blimp crashed landed successfully early this evening. You can see it there. That was, let me just say it again, nearly $200 million. The military surveillance blimp loaded with high-powered radar designed to protect the east coast of the United States from enemy missile attacks.

Boris Sanchez begins our coverage OUTFRONT.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A high-tech military blimp tethered to the ground at an air base in Maryland broke free from its moorings today drifting away uncontrolled. Norad Jay Lens (ph) is a highly sophisticated defensive aircraft. Almost 250 feet long. The helium-filled blimp uses onboard radar that can track cruise missiles and aircraft from up to 340 miles away in any direction. The Jay Lens slipped from its moorings at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, north of Washington, DC just before noon and began a slow drift north over Pennsylvania. Two F-16 fighter jets from a National Guard station in New Jersey scrambled to track the blimp and clear the way for commercial aircraft.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes, it's going down. SANCHEZ: The biggest worry, the 6700 foot cable that kept the

blimp tied down was dragging along the ground, taking down power lines and causing massive power outages. At one point, as many as 30,000 people were without power. The blimp has an automatic deflation system but it's unclear whether or not it worked. After a little more than three-and-a-half hours, the badly damaged blimp finally came down in the woods near Central Pennsylvania.


BURNETT: I mean, it's stunning here to figure out exactly what could have gone so wrong. Boris is on the phone. He is in Pennsylvania on his way to the crash scene right now. Boris, what happens now?

SANCHEZ: Hey, Erin, local authorities are working to secure the area. We know there was a military recovery team that was deployed here a few hours ago. It might be very difficult for them because the conditions right now are pretty rough. It's been raining the whole way over to the Moreland Township where the blimp went down, it also appears that it landed in the field, so you can imagine it was very dark and very rural area. They're going to be collecting any piece of evidence that might help with the investigation. And you can imagine this is going to be a very big investigation, Erin. And it's simply not supposed to happen. The blimp is supposed to remain tethered down even through hurricane-force winds so it will be interesting to see exactly how it got loose.

BURNETT: Something obviously went very, very wrong. Boris, thank you.

And I want to go straight to Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Barbara, you know, Boris saying that this blimp was designed to handle hurricane-force winds. It's a nearly $200 million blimp. This is not a balloon. It's part of a billion dollar missile defense program. It's supposed to be a jewel in the Pentagon's crown. I mean, how did it get loose?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, that really is the $2 billion question, isn't it? Nobody knows. The investigation, as Boris said, is now just beginning. They want to figure out, was there a working deflate mechanism which is supposed to work when it comes loose? Was this in fact reality? Was there one, did it work, did it not work? What made it deflate after three-and-a-half hours of drifting along at about 16,000 feet? What made it come loose from the mooring? It was, as we were told -- the weather parameters, it was rainy here in Washington, DC as well. But the weather parameters were fine. It was perfectly within the range of operational conditions. So now a major investigation is underway.

BURNETT: And they couldn't get it down right away. I mean, obviously it's nearly $200 million. They wouldn't have wanted to shoot it down. It could have headed though for a heavily populated area. But I mean, I know, it was full of what, 7,000 pounds of helium? STARR: Well, you know, if in fact it had headed towards a

significantly populated area, this was going to be the key question that might have gone all the way to the White House. You have two armed F-16s trailing it. You have the FAA trying to clear out air space ahead of it. Would you be prepared to bring this down using military force? Would you shoot it down to get it on the ground as quickly and safely as possible if it was headed for a populated area? We're told all afternoon by military officials, the decision was, how could you get it down as quickly and safely as possible and they tracked it all the way and then it did began to deflate and, by all accounts, come down on its own.

[19:05:33] BURNETT: All right. Barbara, thank you very much. In just a moment, we're going to find out more about what is on this blimp. As we said, part of a missile defense system to track enemy missiles if they were coming in to the eastern United States. It's massive. And it's cable dragged for miles across the North East. It hit power lines across major power outages.

Fred Hunsinger is with me now. He is with the Department of Public Safety for Columbia County and Pennsylvania. And thank you for being with me, Fred. I mean, a blimp of powerful radar is hovering over your community. It was a 6700-foot cable. What did you go through today?

FRED HUNSINGER, DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY COLUMBIA COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA (on the phone): Well, basically, we got notified by the state -- 911 centers about this blimp drifting up to Pennsylvania and at the time we didn't believe it was going to be a threat. But just before 2:00 this afternoon, we had our 911 center receiving literally hundreds of calls within the area of Interstate 80 and (INAUDIBLE) 11 in the eastern end of our county. At that point, it was coming down pretty low and the cable was basically dragging across power lines and people's property and that went on for probably a better part of 40 minutes for a 20-mile stretch across our county.

BURNETT: That's pretty incredible. And I know incredible in many ways that there were not any kind of, you know, injuries or fatalities. I mean, there was a rural area. Thank you very much, I appreciate your time, sir.

And I want to go straight now to Marcus Weisgerber, a Defense One reporter. And Marcus, you know, this blimp -- you heard Barbara talking about it, it's nearly $200 million. This is supposed to be a crown jewel in the Pentagon's crown, missile defense for the East Coast of the United States, it's part of that. It's as long as a football field. You have a lot of equipment on it. I mean, briefly, what is on this thing? I mean, nearly $200 million blimp?

MARCUS WEISGERBER, DEFENSE ONE REPORTER: Well, basically Erin, it's a big radar. It's a radar up in the sky and it's designed to track stuff like cruise missiles or even small drones or, for instance, that gyrocopter that landed on the Capitol lawn just a few months ago. The idea is that having a radar in the sky unlike a radar on the ground, you can see around mountain ranges. So, there's a faction in the Pentagon that wants to use this type of technology to defend the United States against cruise missile type of attacks.

BURNETT: Look, it's incredibly expensive. This blimp $200 million. The blimp program, billions of dollars. How could something like this have happened? I mean, you know, it's supposed to be able to withstand hurricane-force winds and all of a sudden it just gets loose and now there's $200 million of taxpayer dollars down a toilet?

WEISGERBER: Well, right now it's in a test program and in year one it's about to enter its second year of a three-year test program and you can be certain that something like this is really going to weigh in on the Pentagon decision on whether or not to keep buying these blimps to put around perhaps other cities in the United States.

BURNETT: Yes. So Marcus, what could have happened if a blimp like this were to get in the wrong hands?

WEISGERBER: Well, say, if it went out to sea and crashed into the ocean, the fear is always that U.S. technology -- so in this case, the sensitive radar technology, could be picked up by a potential adversary, so Russia or China. And that type of stuff happened before. We saw this in Abbottabad after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The helicopter crash. It was a secret helicopter. No one knew about it. And what happened? The Chinese ended up getting a piece of this helicopter that remained after the Special Forces destroyed the rest of it.

BURNETT: All right. Marcus, thank you very much.

WEISGERBER: Thank you.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, the republican debate round three tonight in Colorado. Will Donald Trump attack Ben Carson now that Ben Carson is number one in a few key polls?

Plus, Carson, the soft spoken candidate says he was a violent teen before he became a renowned brain surgeon. It's an incredible story, it's an American story on steroids. He's still an enigma. Who is the real Ben Carson? We have a special report.

And a school officer in this video has been thrown off the job. Could he face criminal charges? Well, guess what, someone in that police department coming to his defense, OUTFRONT tonight.


[19:12:52] BURNETT: Tonight, the republican presidential candidates are facing off in Colorado. It's their third debate. We are now less than 100 days from the Iowa caucus. Donald Trump remains the focus. Perhaps he has the most to lose. He's fallen behind Ben Carson in a few key polls. Ben now the leader in Iowa and one national poll. So, what will happen on the debate stage tonight?

Dana Bash is OUTFRONT.



DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Four republican candidates who won't make the main stage already debated and tried hard to break through.

GRAHAM: I am tired of losing. Good God, look who we're running against. The number one candidate on the other side though she was flat broke after her and her husband were in the White House for eight years. The number two guy went to the Soviet Union on his honeymoon and I don't think he ever came back. If we don't beat these people, who the hell are we going to beat?

BASH: Certainly not the way the candidate who talked constantly about winning wanted to go into tonight's debate.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Iowa, will you get your numbers up, please?

BASH: Second place, nationally and in the first caucus state.

TRUMP: Now, if I lose Iowa, I will never speak to you people again. That I can tell you.

BASH: For Ben Carson being on top now, means he has more to lose.

BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The person who has the most to do with what happens to you in life is you.

BASH: Aides say Carson prepped hard this week on policy, in- depth Q&A with his campaign team on issues of focus on this debate. The economy and jobs. Well, Trump and Carson duked it out at the top. The fight further down the field is red hot.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Republicans and conservatives win when we have a hopeful, optimistic message, a more Reaganesque message.

BASH: Jeb Bush has to prove he can turn things around. A Bush source tells CNN the fiscal issues likely to dominate tonight's debate is in the policy once wheel house but on Bush challenges communicating his message, the source said he's not going to be someone he's not.

MARCO RUBIO (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What about Bush? Because he's been kind of quiet this year but you never know with this guy.

BASH: Marco Rubio is giving Bush a run for his money as the candidate of the GOP establishment. He released this light-hearted pre-debate video about Bush, Carson and Cruz.

RUBIO: Victor Cruz, Reggie Bush and Carson Palmer. Let's keep an eye on all of those guys and let me know.

BASH: Less funny for Rubio? A hometown paper that endorsed him in 2010 for Senate now says he's missed so many votes, he should resign.

RUBIO: Taxpayers provide you with $174,000 a year to do your job. Do you know how many Florida families would kill for a third of that money each year along with that pay?


BURNETT: Dana, you know, the first debate with Graham, Santorum, Jindal and Pataki just ending. What was the highlight? Did you learn anything?

BASH: I'm not sure we learn anything new about the candidates' positions but as you saw at the beginning there, Lindsey Graham kind of stole the show not just with his sort of red hot rhetoric but also with his humor. No question about that. And we also learn, George Pataki who I know as you know from living in New York and covering him when he was governor, he says, his favorite app is uber because he doesn't have a driver anymore. But on that, the issues -- we heard a lot about before but I think it's just important to note that a lot of these candidates in any other year when there were not so many candidates would be really on the main stage, a sitting governor, a sitting senator, you know, a former governor of New York. These are serious people and it's just because, again, there are so many people running that they are relegated to the undercard.

BURNETT: All right. Dana, thank you very much.

And I want to go now to the former director of the Congressional Budget Office and economic advisor John McCain, Douglas Holtz-Eakin. And the former chairman of the Council of Economic advisors for President Obama and professor of Economics at the University of Chicago Austin Goolsbee.

All right. Great to have both of you with me. The three of us and panels go back many, many years. So, it's great to have you with me tonight. Doug, who has the most to prove tonight in the debate?

DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ACTION FORUM: I think the person who has the most to prove is Ben Carson. Once your name gets to the top of any poll, people start looking closer and the question is, can you be the person who got to the top and stay at the top or does that change things for you, you're the focus of attacks, you're the focus of more scrutiny? The expectations are much higher. So, I think there's a lot of pressure on him.

[19:17:16] BURNETT: There's a lot of pressure on him for sure. And Austin, Donald Trump, you know, is now fighting against Ben Carson. He wants to remain the front-runner. Right? You had Carson heading some key polls. Tonight's crucial for Trump. But look, the focus is the economy. That is what Donald Trump sells himself as the master of the economy, the art of the deal. Right? This is how he introduces himself.


BURNETT: -- forgotten about how Donald Trump likes to talk about the economy. Here's Donald Trump.


TRUMP: I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created, I tell you that. There's not a country that we negotiated with that doesn't make a better deal. Everybody, we lose money with everything. Everybody is ripping us off. Every country is ripping us off. Every single country. So, we're not going to let it happen anymore.

We need somebody that can go to China and say, folks, it's time. It's time. You can't keep taking our money. You can't keep taking our jobs.


BURNETT: All right. He brought God into it, Austin. So, there was religion. Look, is there something to be said, though, for his argument?

GOOLSBEE: Well, there's something when you -- when I heard you describing that there was a militaristic vehicle full of hot air that was threatening to do major damage to the country and cost us millions of dollars, I could not help but think of Donald Trump. But what Donald Trump I think is going to do is go back to the bombast that got him to number one before. You saw him over the last couple of weeks actually toning it down a little bit.


GOOLSBEE: And then Ben Carson sort of floated over him. So, I think he's going to come up barrels shooting and talking about the economy.

BURNETT: And Doug, when he does that, you know, this is a guy who is worth billions. Right? I mean, all the arguments over how many billions of points is, he's worth billions. And most of it made by Donald Trump himself. You can't take that away from Donald Trump. Does he understand the economy better than anyone else on that stage, better than Hillary Clinton?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: He's the only one with four bankruptcies, too, and the track record of businessman as president is going back to her with Hover is not outstanding. So, I would say, it's an open question. One of the things you'll going to see tonight is really outsiders versus insiders. There are people who like sitting governors. Kasich, former governor Bush, sitting Senator Rubio, policy heavy wonky types and then there's Carson, Trump, Carly Fiorina. They are going to try to pivot the discussion and say, do you really know what you're talking about? Do you really know about how complicated the government is? What do you know about health care? What do you know about trade? And that's not so much about the policy, it's just showing, you do you have command of these issues or not?

BURNETT: And Austin, who do you think has the most approve of that in terms of command on that issues? Because obviously you know that Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump are going to make the argument they have all the way along. We're business people. We understand these things.

GOOLSBEE: Exactly. Well, see, I think what the dynamic which will play out, which is not going to go well for most of the establishment and wonky candidates is that Jeb Bush, let's say, is going to get up and propose his tax plan and say, I know all about tax reform and I thought through all of the issues, and I have an intricate policy that does A, B and C and then Donald Trump is going to say, but my plan cuts the rate at 10 percent for everyone and will grow the economy six percent a year. And even though the fact checkers are going to go back and say, no, that doesn't make any sense, it's still going to put Jeb Bush in a very uncomfortable situation because he's going to be trying to take into account all of the subtleties of policy and the outsider candidates are just kind of disregarding that.

BURNETT: Well, and the fact checkers to be fair.


GOOLSBEE: -- are going to be the establishment.

BURNETT: Yes. I have also suggests Bush's plans doesn't matter.

HOLTZ-EAKIN: I think Austin is on to something. I mean, I think if this gets too wonky and they go into the weeds, they are going to lose. There's no doubt about that.


HOLTZ-EAKIN: So, say they have command without going into all of the details. The other thing that will go on, the safe spot for everyone of these guys tonight is when they really are not sure what to say, they are going to say, hey, we're not going to be like Barack Obama and that's what Hillary Clinton is going to be. We have seven odd years of sluggish recovery. And so, the biggest thing you'll hear about is the candidate is not on the stage and how they're different from Hillary Clinton and why growth will come from their plans and growth hasn't come from her.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate both of you taken the time tonight. We're going to say, Ben Carson, Donald Trump, all eyes on them tonight. Thank you both.

And OUTFRONT next, Ben Carson, he is a retired neurosurgeon. He is now starting to top the polls in the republican race. So, who is he? He's an enigma. I mean, when he talks, he's so calm. You say, could this really be real? Is this real? Well, it is real and we have a special report on things you don't know about this doctor who suddenly has found himself number one in the race for the most powerful job in the world.

[19:22:06] And authorities reacting quickly firing the officer seen in this video. But how he is saying he did nothing wrong and someone on that police force is defending him and we have that, coming up.


[19:26:15] BURNETT: Tonight, all eyes on Ben Carson for the first time. Number one in the national poll. And at a crucial moment heading into tonight's republican debate. Carson's team says, the Doctor took a nap and ate a veggie lunch ahead of tonight's showdown. Ben Carson is known for being strangely calm. He is an enigma to many. So, who is he?

Suzanne Malveaux is OUTFRONT with the special report.


CARSON: I'm a candidate for president of the United States.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dr. Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon hailed as a miracle soldier, now also a political lightning rod for controversial statements that have, in part, catapulted him to the top.

CARSON: ObamaCare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.

I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in-charge of this nation.

MALVEAUX: His views about gays, most of them is abortion and slavery have not hurt him with the GOP faithful. In fact, he's seen abouts from white evangelicals who've embraced him. But Carson's new outspoken persona has also alienated some in the black community who revered him, particularly African-American doctors who were inspired by his story.

DR. SALAMISHAH TILLET, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Dr. Carson is the reason that I chose to go to John Hopkins for medical school and to see him embrace a platform that is harmful to the health of many in this country is very hurtful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Its slippery use of slavery as an analogy for everything is so offensive to African-Americans.

MALVEAUX: Before Carson announced his candidacy, he was touted as a hero, rugs to riches story, growing up in poverty in Detroit.

ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS, BEN CARSON'S BUSINESS MANAGER: Roaches, rats, leaky roofs, barely food on the table but his mother loved him.

MALVEAUX: She worked three jobs as young Ben Carson struggled as a troubled teen with a temper that included a knife fight where he almost stabbed a friend.

WILLIAMS: This fear was that they had no father in the household. He was just (INAUDIBLE) their mother will worked herself to death and they will grow us orphans. MALVEAUX: Carson says, that incident forced him to turn his life

around. He found God and went on to become one of the top neurosurgeons in the country becoming the first to successfully separate twins conjoined at the head. He wrote about his remarkable turnaround in his own books which was made into a movie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If someone doesn't operate on this man soon, he will die.

MALVEAUX: He set up a scholarship program for poor high school students challenging them to go to college and friends say, he never forget where he came from.

DR. RON ANDERSON, OPHTHALMOLOGIST AND CARSON FAMILY FRIEND: There's been no one on this side apart from Martin Luther King that has meant that much to that community.

MALVEAUX: Despite the focus now by some on his controversial statements, friends who have known him for decades like Armstrong Williams says, Carson and his message has not changed

WILLIAMS: Dr. Carson has talked about slavery for years. It's really nothing new.

MALVEAUX: Dr. Ron Anderson, who has known Carson for more than 30 years and has worshipped with him as a Seventh Day Adventist says, Carson's life is about his faith. And devotion to giving back.

ANDERSON: I hear people saying, well, Ben realizes where he came from.


MALVEAUX: And Carson's closest friends say his calm confidence comes from his faith in God which gives him his sense of self-worth and esteem which is not something that Trump can take away from him tonight on the stage or during this election. So, the core of who he is, they say is someone who believes that because he made it through such tremendous odds with faith, hard work and support, so can others. He enjoys beating the odds and he is thinking going into this debate tonight is to show those who support him that they've made the right decision -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Suzanne, thank you.

And I want to go now to Ben Carson's Iowa State Director Ryan Rhodes. Obviously, Ryan, it's been a very good week for you with Ben Carson going to number one in some of those polls in Iowa. Republican strategist and the former national spokesman for the Bush/Cheney campaign in 2004, Terry Holt is also with me.

So, Ryan, let me ask you, I think the thing that so many people are fascinated by and don't understand about Ben Carson is how can someone be as calm as he is, right? I mean, I've been with him in person. He's so calm. You can't rattle the guy. And yet this is a guy who talks about he beat people with bats and tried to stab people when he was younger.

Is that guy still in there? You know him.

RYAN RHODES, IOWA DIRECTOR, BEN CARSON CAMPAIGN: Look, Ben is a very passionate person and I think his passion got directed because, as he said, he had a faith conversion. And only God can actually do that in somebody's life. You just don't turn around by yourselves and I think that's evident and you see that every day in him.

BURNETT: You just also heard him in Suzanne's piece, Ryan, that many in the black community feel alienated by Carson's comments. His slavery analogy is something that has bothered some specifically. Does it concern you when you hear him making comments like he's made about slavery or like he's made about if they just had more guns than Adolph Hitler may not have become Adolph Hitler?

RHODES: Well, I think you can take little snippets of what has been said and miss the whole of what he's trying to say because Ben is somebody who really thinks deeply and teaches a lot as he's talking and I think when you look at the whole message of what Ben is saying, it has a lot -- there's a lot more people it connects with than people who are turned off by it which is obviously what you're seeing here in Iowa.

BURNETT: And you are. There's no question about it. "The Des Moines Register" when it asked about those comments, people in Iowa overwhelmingly approved them. To be fair, I should point that out.

Terry, when you see Carson moving up in the polls, you see Suzanne's piece of people who knew him talking out, I want to note, by the way, she did try to talk to other neurosurgeons that work with him and a lot of them ran away from her in the parking lot. So, plenty of people didn't want to talk, which is I guess is to be expected.


BURNETT: So let me ask you. Do you think he can sustain this?

HOLT: It's going to be tough. This is a long and brutal test. Ben Carson is a great man and his demeanor and his thoughtfulness have been a blessing to this nominating process in the early stages.

But Washington is a shark tank. It's full of sharks. And if you want a president prepared to come in and fix this, this mess we have here in Washington, D.C., then you're going to need to see some more overt leadership ability and maybe some experience.

He needs to demonstrate to the American people that he fits inside the White House, that you can see him behind the big desk. That's always a fundamental question voters have. It's why Barack Obama's original nomination in 2008 in Denver, it was a White House, remember that.

And so, Ben Carson, as he takes on this mantel of a front-runner, is going to be tested and people are going to be looking for those leadership attributes and some of those qualities of toughness and discipline that the American people come to expect in a strong, determined leader.

BURNETT: So, Ryan, one thing, though, that has derailed many people, and two nominees, John Kerry, Mitt Romney, has been a perception of being a flip-flopper, and Ben Carson has changed his mind on crucial issues, Medicare, abortion, vaccines and a religious litmus test for the White House.

How big of a problem is that? Obviously, John Kerry and Mitt Romney both lost and no small part because they were successfully labeled a flip-floppers.

RHODES: Well, Ben Carson has gone out there and articulated as we go through just what he believes and how he's going to fix this. He also says he's willing to open up to ideas that will help us go because if anybody is going to set in stone just instantly that I can't hear something else and grow, then that's probably not who you want in the White House anyway. You want people who are going to bring people together, unite people and actually get something done.

I don't think John Kerry and Mitt Romney's problem was simply that they changed their mind on one issue. I think the problem was much deeper than that.

And I think Ben, in this case, as you look to the general election, is the strongest candidate because he's going to bring those people out that didn't show up last time.

BURNETT: OK. Well, I appreciate both of you taking the time as we get to know Ben Carson now better and better.

And next, the deputy fired today in this video, the teacher and the principal say he acted appropriately. So what happens next? Somebody is going to actually say students could be a big part of this problem coming up next.

[19:35:06] And our report on school resource officers. School violence on the rise. They have become a virtual police force in public schools. This is not the first takedown. We're going to show you others that will shock you.


BURNETT: Breaking news, the South Carolina's sheriff deputy fired after yanking a 16-year-old from her desk is speaking out tonight. Ben Fields' attorney releasing a statement. It says, in part, "We believe Mr. Fields' actions were justified and lawful."

Now, Fields' boss says he was fired because he did not follow proper procedures, not at the beginning of the incident, but at the end, when he threw the student across the room. She refused to leave her math class.

Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT in Columbia, South Carolina.



MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This single, violent jolt ended the career of school resource Officer Ben Fields.

SHERIFF LEON LOTT, RICHLAND COUNTY, SOUTH CAROLINA: Approximately 20 minutes ago, school resource officer Ben Fields was terminated from the Richland County Sheriff's Department.

[09:40:01] MARQUEZ: The confrontation started over a cell phone that the 16-year-old was using it in the class, and was rude and disruptive when asked to stop.

LOTT: She was very disruptive. She was very disrespectful. And she started this whole incident with her actions.

MARQUEZ: The student refused to leave the class as ordered by the teacher, an African-American administrator, as well as the sheriff's deputy. When Ben Fields was asked to remove her, the sheriff said everything he did was within policy until this.

LOTT: When I see that video, is the fact that he picked the student up and threw the student across the room. That is not a proper technique and should not be used in law enforcement.

MARQUEZ: Fields could still face charges based on the ongoing independent FBI investigation.

In a statement, his attorney says his actions were carried out professionally and he was performing his job duties within the legal threshold.

The sheriff's swift action, meant to quell any possible concerns about a racial motivation behind this student's arrest in the majority of African-American community, even involved members of the community here did not see race as a factor.

RUSSEL ANDERSON, CHAIRMAN, CITIZENS ADVISORY COUNCIL: Everything that happens is not race-related. I think you have to be sure before you cite race as a problem. Just because somebody disobeyed the police officer, the administrator and a teacher doesn't make it a racial issue.


MARQUEZ: Now, the sheriff's quick action seems to have ended this chapter of the story but the lawyer for the young woman who was arrested says she was injured during that arrest even though the sheriff says there was no sign of serious injuries when she was taken into custody that day, on Monday. And the deputy himself has lawyered up.

So, I think that there is more stories to come -- Erin.

BURNETT: Miguel, thank you.

And OUTFRONT now, Lieutenant Curtis Wilson. He is the public information officer for the Richland County Sheriff's Offices.

Lieutenant, let me ask you the question here point a blank. Deputy Ben Fields was fired quickly, less than 48 hours after this incident. Was there a rush to judgment? Was there pressure because of this media coverage?

LT. CURTIS WILSON, RICHLAND COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: Ma'am, what it was was the sheriff made sure he took his time meticulously on purpose to make sure that he saw the video and then, of course, had investigators look into what took place and even our internal affairs as well. And not only that, he even took the time to have a training division look at our policies and procedures and, of course, how we're trained before he made his decision in the determination as to the future of Ben Fields.

BURNETT: And I think everybody looks at that video, look, it's a disturbing video. You do also see into the video, though, the teenage girl punched the sheriff, the SRO. What should he have done differently?

WILSON: Well, you know, we can do the Monday morning quarterback thing as to what he should have done. But what -- you know, we're talking about, what the sheriff is talking about is that should not have tossed her at the end. Once he had the takedown, which, of course, was a bit aggressive as well, but once he took her down, he could have affected that arrest.

The tossing to the other side of the room, that was where the sheriff couldn't really agree and back him on that.

BURNETT: So it wasn't the takedown but the toss specifically, an important distinction for people to understand.

And, Lieutenant Wilson, I was talking to a member of the school board yesterday, African-American, and I asked him whether he thought race was relevant here, certainly in terms of the national attention this has gotten. That is part of the reason it's getting such scrutiny.

He said he didn't think that the white officer look at that student and saw his own daughter, his own wife, his own niece, as the school board member said, he's an African-American would have seen someone that he knew, that he loved when he saw this girl. Do you think this was about race at some point?

WILSON: Not at all. Not at all. I've been hearing a lot about the fact that race played a role in this.

I know Ben Fields, I've talked to Ben Fields. The sheriff has mentioned the fact that Ben Fields, his girlfriend is African- American. That tells you right there, it wasn't a race issue.

It was an issue of being noncompliant. It was an issue of a student who refused to listen to the teacher, to the instructions of the assistant principal, and then to even, you know, not comply with the deputy's orders to just be removed from the school. Now, what we're getting is now we're opening up the doors for

more students to act up in class and what is an officer going to do? You can't do anything to me now. I'll sue you. You know, these types of things we're getting on the other end of this spectrum.

BURNETT: And, Officer Wilson, before we go, what was Ben Fields' reaction when you all told him today that he was fired, he was losing his job?

WILSON: You know, for Ben, of course, he regretted the situation, what happened, because he didn't mean to cause all of this attention to come upon the Richland County Sheriff's Department.

[19:45:05] That never was his intent. He regrets that it happened but he's grateful for the opportunity that he had to work for the Richland County Sheriff's Department, which is what he told me and that he feels he's going to be OK. Just a little, as anyone would be, bummed out as to what has taken place over the last couple of days.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Officer, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

WILSON: Not a problem. Thank you.

BURNETT: All right. And after that video, you're going to be surprised, shocked, at how violent confrontations like this one are between students and teachers. How far should school resource officers be allowed to go?


BURNETT: Tonight, violent takedowns in schools. This a video of an officer throwing a female student two days ago is now familiar to most Americans. But it's far from the only violent fight between officers and students at school.

Jason Carroll is OUTFRONT.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since these disturbing images went viral, the spotlight focused not only on now fired sheriff's deputy and his actions but also on the role of school resource officers in the nation's schools.

LOTT: Should he have ever been called there? Now, that's something that we're going to talk to the school district about. Maybe that should have been handled by the teacher and that school administrator without ever calling the deputy.

OFFICER: Are you going to come with me or am I going to make you?

[19:50:01] CARROLL: Former Deputy Ben Fields was called to the classroom after the 16-year-old student refused repeated request to leave by both her teacher and a school administrator. Resource officers are used as a law enforcement tool in some


Just this week in Sacramento, a resource officer called to help break out a fight involving about a dozen students. This school's principal tossed during the fight, police end up arresting three teenagers.

Breaking up school fights or trying to manage a defiant student are part of the resource officer's duties, but it is not all officer's responsibilities.

MO CANADY, EXEC. DIR. NATL. ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS: We want them involved in informal counseling more than the context of their job, really getting to know students and building relationships with them.

CARROLL: Part counselor, part enforcer, according to the National Association of School Resource Officers, their numbers grew in the late '80s under the DARE program to help children stay away from drugs and violence.

Growing more following the shooting in Columbine, Colorado, in 1999, after schools felt the need to have access to armed officers. Now, some 82,000 SROs are working full or part time at 43 percent of public schools and with more officers, more cameras, comes more scrutiny.

A school resource officer in Kentucky faces federal charges for handcuffing two misbehaving children with disabilities. In this video, a third grade boy struggles with the cuffs.

And now, in South Carolina, an officer fired from his job and under a federal investigation that could result in even more punishment.


BURNETT: All right. So I mean, some of these very disturbing but the video we're seeing in South Carolina, you heard the PIO say to me, the take down, this part, is OK. That is OK with procedure. It's that part when he pulls her across the room and throws her out that isn't. The take down itself is OK, what then, Jason, was he supposed to do next?

CARROLL: I think that's what a lot of people are asking. You when you speak to the national association of SROs, they say before that initial take down and before that deputy flipped her over that desk, he says there is something that officer could have done and that's basically to have told the classroom, everyone in the classroom has to leave. Isolate that student there.

So, what you're doing, taking the ego out of the equation.

BURNETT: Right. CARROLL: So, it's not like anyone is trying to perform in front

of anyone else. They have found often times when they isolate the student in a classroom in a situation like that, tends to deescalate the situation.

BURNETT: That's something I think a lot of people wouldn't have thought of as we try to look what could have been done.

All right. Jason, thank you very much.

CARROLL: And next, young men with little training or support, you're going to meet them trying to defend one small town against ISIS. An exclusive report from the front lines.


[19:57:12] BURNETT: Tonight on the front lines against ISIS, rare and exclusive access to one small town, and the poorly armed and prepared fighters trying to save it from ISIS.

Clarissa Ward is OUTFRONT.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Weeks ago, these dusty planes were held by ISIS. This is what's left of its presence now. The charred remains of a training camp hidden in a pine forest. It's where ISIS trained an elite unit of suicide bombers that attacked Kurdish positions with devastating effect.

Kurdish fighters known as the YPG took this entire area from is in August, but holding it, along a front line more than 400 miles long, is a huge challenge.

In the shadow of Mt. Abdulaziz, Commander Zinar told us he had lost 30 of his fighters in a recent battle when ISIS came down from the mountain.

CHIEF ZINAR, KURDISH FIGHTER (through translator): The enemy attacked us with a large number of fighters, using heavy weapons. They took control of three villages and after that, the clashes lasted for hours until we were in control again.

WARD: Zinar is a battalion commander, but this is the size of his battalion, a handful of poorly equipped men. The nearest friendly forces are miles away.

The cost of pushing ISIS out has been enormous. Streets here are draped of the flags of fighters killed in battle, along desolate roads, through abandoned villages, we saw scene upon scene of devastation. The wreckage of months of fierce fighting and relentless coalition airstrikes.

(on camera): Dozens of villages like this one that were liberated from ISIS months ago are now still completely deserted. Now, that's partly because the ISIS militants before they retreated planted land mines and booby traps all across this area, but it's also because many people here aren't convinced that ISIS won't be coming back.

In the tiny village of Mekhlouja, we met Wadha, who's lived her all her life. She told us she was too afraid to leave home when ISIS was in control, that they beat and killed people and brought misery upon the community.

"There were no air strikes before they arrived and then the strikes started. There was one next to me. We were scared of everything. Not just ISIS."

Are you still afraid, I ask? She says not, but glances warily at the Kurdish YPG fighters with us.

The Kurds question the loyalty of many of these villages, claiming they harbor ISIS sympathizers. The killing may have stopped, but there is no peace here.

Clarissa Ward, CNN, Mt. Abdulaziz, Syria.


BURNETT: And thank you so much for joining us. Be sure to set your DVR to record OUTFRONT so you can watch us any time. We'll see you back here tomorrow night.

"AC360" starts now.