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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Officer Who Shot Brown Interviewed Twice; Ukraine: We Destroyed Part of Russian Convoy; Brown Family Holding News Conference
Aired August 15, 2014 - 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: Welcome back to THE LEAD. We are live from Ferguson, Missouri, with breaking news now about the shooting death here of an unarmed black 18-year-old named Michael Brown after learning this morning that a white officer named Darren Wilson was the one who shot and killed Brown on Saturday.
We're now getting new details about the investigation now surrounding Wilson. Let's get to our Justice Department correspondent, Pamela Brown. Pamela, what have you learned?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we've learned that the officer involved in the Michael Brown shooting Darren Wilson, has been interviewed twice by St. Louis County Police detectives.
We learned that one interview happened shortly after the shooting and then there was a second interview that took place. It was a longer more thorough interview that detectives did with Wilson.
We don't know exactly what Wilson told investigators but of course, we heard earlier this week from the police chief there who basically gave the account from the officer's side saying that there was an altercation between the Officer Wilson and Michael Brown and that Brown tried to grab his gun.
So this is noteworthy though the because obviously, this is a key -- going to be a key part of the investigation not only for local detectives, but also in the federal investigation, as well for the civil rights investigation.
Now, I want to point out, Jake, it isn't unusual for someone in the position as Wilson to be interviewed twice. Usually right after a shooting, it's very chaotic, it's very stressful. Normally they're asked very basic questions to see if there's a risk to public safety and that kind of thing.
And then normally the standard procedure is for there to be a second more thorough interview. We understand that has taken place and that other key witnesses have been interviewed.
As well in the local and federal level including as we spoke about yesterday Dorian Johnson, who says he was walking with Michael Brown when the shooting occurred -- Jake. TAPPER: Pamela, I know it's all very preliminary right now. But what are investigators at this stage looking at in terms of preliminary evidence?
BROWN: Well, we've learned, Jake that at this stage in the investigation, detectives are able to look at the preliminary forensics results as well as ballistics, preliminary ballistics results and preliminary autopsy results.
But the forensics will really be key here, Jake. What we've learned is that now detectives are able to see what kind of DNA was at the crime scene. Was there DNA on Officer Wilson's gun?
Was there Michael Brown's DNA on the police car, on the officer's clothing? That information will help detectives understand whether or not there really was an altercation between Brown and the officer, how far away Brown was from the officer when the shooting occurred.
Those important details. So the preliminary forensics results are key in any investigation and that's something that detectives will continue to look at. They're still waiting for toxicology reports and for the final results for autopsy ballistics and forensics -- Jake.
TAPPER: Pamela Brown, thank you so much. Coming up next on THE LEAD, Ukraine just hit a convoy of Russian vehicles that had crossed over their border under cover of night. Is Putin planning to invade or just playing games with Ukraine up next in our World Lead.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper in Ferguson, Missouri. New information provided by police to the public six days after the death of Michael Brown is only adding to the complexity of this deeply emotional case and much more on this fast-moving situation coming up.
But first, let's turn to our World Lead with the threat of invasion looming, Putin's forces put a toe over the border into Ukraine today. The Ukrainian government says those forces have been destroyed, a convoy of Russian military vehicles that crossed over into the war zone that is Eastern Ukraine.
CNN Chief National Security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, has those details.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The convoy of Russian armored personnel carriers had just crossed into Ukraine said witnesses and several journalists when the Ukrainian military struck, shelling the convoy and partially destroying it. Moscow insisted no Russian military vehicles crossed the border at all.
ANDRIY LYSENKO, UKRAINIAN NATIONAL SECURITY AND DEFENSE COUNCIL SPOKESPERSON (through translator): Every Russian military column is constantly watched. We cannot destroy them right on the border. That is why we use tactics of letting columns move deep into our territory and then destroy them there.
SCIUTTO: The military vehicles came in addition to a larger convoy. This long white line of trucks which the Russian government has insisted is delivering only humanitarian aid.
But when Ukrainian officials escorted journalists to inspect it, they found many of the trucks largely empty. And visible nearby, large column of Russian thanks parked on the road. Part of a massive Russian force now deployed within miles of the Ukrainian border.
Today the International Red Cross told CNN it is now negotiating an agreement with Moscow to arrange for the aid to be delivered after a thorough inspection with the trucks that delivered it quickly returning to Russia.
ANNA NELSON, INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS SPOKESPERSON: They will be driven to Luhansk and unloaded in Luhansk.
SCIUTTO (on camera): That takes away the chance that other things can sneak their way into the country.
NELSON: My assumption is that's exactly the reason, yes.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): The most pressing concern for U.S. officials, however, not the aid convoys, but massive shipments to rebels of Russian arms. Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.
TAPPER: Let's bring in Marie Harf, she is deputy spokesperson for the State Department. Marie, thanks for joining us. So reporters on the ground say they saw, watched armored Russian vehicles cross the border into Ukraine. Do you think this is the beginning of an invasion force?
MARIE HARF, DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON, STATE DEPARTMENT: Well, Jake, what we've seen over the last 24 hours is incredibly concerning to us. We are still working to ascertain all of the facts about exactly what's happening here on the ground.
But we've said repeatedly that Russia should not take these kinds of escalatory steps. They should not send weapons to the separatists and any humanitarian aid needed to be delivered in complete coordination with the Ukrainian government.
And we are very concerned about what's happened and we're looking into it and will be taking additional steps if we think they're necessary.
TAPPER: Marie, stay with us for a second. Right now, we're told that the family of Michael Brown, the unarmed black 18-year-old who was shot and killed here in Ferguson on Saturday, they are holding a news conference and we're going to take that live.
ANTHONY GRAY, ATTORNEY FOR BROWN FAMILY: Let me be real clear to everyone here that this family has never said that Mike Brown Junior was a perfect kid. In fact, if you remember in the earlier interviews with the father and the mother, the dad even described incidents where he had to keep his foot on his son's back.
His mom described having to push her child to the point where he canning have the kind of future that he was planning just the days after he was killed, shot and killed in broad daylight. So I don't want anybody to leave here with the misconception that these parents have ever portrayed that about their child.
And so when you -- I anticipate that you may see as Attorney Parks stated other images or other photographs or depictions that don't paint him in the most complimentary light as he's been pushed by his parents to be the best kid that he can be to make up his decision about his future.
And I agree with him and those that have called me or contacted me, that is just a major distraction about an 18-year-old child. He probably did 15-year-old stuff. I don't think there's anyone out here at that particular age, who is proud of everything that they've done from the day they were born until the day they became 18.
So I join with him in making sure we're not distracted. Let me transition to why we are really here, why there is a community-wide, statewide, countrywide, international interest in this case.
When I got the call that this young man allegedly by witnesses had his hands in the air as the universal sip of surrender and it was at this time bullets were pumped into his body, I perked up like a German shepherd.
I would imagine that anybody would when they hear that, that goes for law enforcement officials, law enforcement officers that have contacted me, that agree that that is a very disturbing scenario and that we should get to the bottom of that.
That also includes communitywide people. That has united the white people, black people, Hispanic people, Asian people, Mike Brown junior could have been a white guy, an Asian guy. If you have your hands in the air and the police fire shots at you, I think all of you guys would be assembling right now to find the answers out to that situation.
So this is a communitywide, nationwide call to understand an incident that happened on that day. I don't want to lose track of it. We are only talking about a few minutes to where these witnesses are claiming that Mike Brown Junior had his hands in the air before the police shot and killed him in broad daylight.
What happened in the 18 years before that does not matter. All we're looking at, is this -- taking this as truth, that is disturbing to everybody and if it's not disturbing to you, then you have a public interest or an interest that's different than most people in the public.
Now, we're here to talk about the latest events that have come out in the media and the Ferguson police chief's decision to release the still pictures in a video. The family feels that that was strategic, they think it was aimed at denigrating their son. It was a character assassination attempt.
That is pretty much the sentiments of everyone that I've discussed. They think the timing is suspect. And at a time when the highway patrol has been called in, when we've got a calm going on in the community, we're finally reaching the point where things are settled down.
He's now inciting the community all over again. If you get this kind of negative violent reaction to this, it won't be on anybody's part on this side. I want to preface that. We were finally getting to a point where we were starting to just galvanize the questions that everybody was curious about.
And now, we're focused on the sideshow. That is really unfair to this family. Even in spite of that, I have been asked to make a plea to those that are under the sound of my voice to do not take the bait from the anybody that is trying to character assassinate Mike.
Do not take that and react negatively to people in the public. Don't take that and begin to riot. Don't take that and begin to loot. This family is not for that and made that plain and clear. So I just wanted to deliver that to everybody here and just make sure that I convey that message to you now.
It is my distinct honor to deliver to you -- Eric Davis by the way is the cousin of Leslie when she was looking at the events earlier, Mr. Davis actually could not get away to attend some of the other press conferences because she was clinging to him like Velcro.
So you're about to hear from the person that is probably the most closest to Leslie in this whole case. So you're going to hear from him but area actually listening to Leslie, as well. So I'll turn the mic over to Mr. Davis.
ERIC DAVIS, COUSIN OF MICHAEL BROWN: First of all, I want to thank you all for being here today and for supporting the family in their efforts to seek justice for Michael Brown, which we're trying to do today. Earlier, the chief did release a video that was basically what we think was basically smoke and mirrors to try to divert the attention away from what really occurred.
The events that took place on canfield had nothing to do with whatever grocery store Michael may have been in or the person on the video was in because we don't know that that was Michael for sure. Whatever took place there had nothing to do with an individual getting down on his hands and knees raising his hands in the air and saying, don't shoot.
This is the universal call for I surrender and I can hear my cousin's voice right now as I speak saying don't shoot. Yet still the officer stepped to him and shot him is what we heard from the officer and that is wrong. We want the truth to come out and we're sure it will as the day goes on. We're asking the community to please consider us, please support us. Stay with us, but do not get distracted. We don't want to see any violence in the street. Please continue to peacefully protest. We thank you for your support.
DARYL PARKS, ATTORNEY FOR BROWN FAMILY: The last thing we'll say before we take questions, at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, the family will be at a rally at the Jefferson Memorial downtown, 3:00 p.m. We're asking the public to come out in strong support and so please governor yourself accordingly. We'll take a few questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please clarify, is that Michael Brown in the video? Did he rob that store and rough up that clerk?
PARKS: It appears to look like him. I wouldn't say he robbed it, but that picture appears to look like him. You look at the video you get a better picture. For some reason the chief decided to release those pictures. Those pictures look a lot worse than the video.
Why would he strategically put this community and the world through a whole day of seeing those pictures when he had a video that was a far better portrayal? You have to ask yourself that question. We believe he strategically did that to assassinate the character of Michael Brown. Other questions?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that him? \
PARKS: I answered the question already. It appears to be him. I didn't know him. It appears to be him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you talk about what Michael Brown, what the family was doing that day? What was he supposed to be doing? Did they know anything about the day before this happened?
PARKS: He was staying with some friends in the area is what I've been told.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know anything else about what he was doing?
PARKS: That's all I'll probably answer to that question. Any other questions? Yes.
First of all, the family obviously we have had participating in the second autopsy for our purposes in terms of as a civil lawyers in this case. We've also asked the Department of Justice to consider doing their own independent autopsy in this case, as well.
That would be their decision and so then after that takes place, obviously the family has to honor and remember Michael in their own way and they will do that after the federal Department of Justice has done whatever they choose to do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did the family know about the -- did you know this was going to be coming? Did you have any heads-up? This here? That's a good question. Let me say this here. As we talked with Michael's mother today and she saw what had happened, what the chief had done, right, she was very distraught about that. As we talked with her, she said why would he do that?
And why after the great night last night and so she thought it was very important before tonight that everyone here know that she is OK with where the investigation is and that she wanted people to remain calm. That's very important.
That's why she looked to her significant other and said you know what, this is her significant other, his mother, and she said I want you all to go down there and it's important that people know that we want them to stay calm.
That justice is moving now in the right direction. So we didn't really want to do this. But we thought it very important that we shouldn't put people in harm's way like we believe others have done by being very careless in how we conduct themselves in their official capacities.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you believe -- did police tell the Brown family --
PARKS: The name of the officer?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did they release it before they told everybody else?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did they tell them anything?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From the autopsy, how many times was he actually shot?
PARKS: I won't answer that right now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you say you had conducted --
PARKS: It's completed. Well, it's done and we'll talk about that later. We're not answering any questions about the autopsy at this time. We will at the time that we designate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, would you mind, put this in perspective for the rest of the country why does she care about what's going on here in their community?
GRAY: Well, I think they should care because like I stated before, when you have witness accounts saying that an officer, a sworn officer to uphold the law shot an unarmed person with their hands up as a universal sign of surrender, that is so deeply disturbing that it should rivet around the globe. Let me tell you what I think about when you see this. You have some of the most hardened criminals in jail right now that when they gave this sign, they were taken into custody peacefully. I think about Saddam Hussein. I think about Charles Manson.
When those guys did this, they've done way more stuff than being alleged of taking cigarillos from a 7-Eleven. There are far more worse crimes than that. But when they did this, they were taken into custody peacefully.
All we're saying when a person does this as Mrs. Davis describes on his knees and then he shot and killed Michael after doing that, that is not just a community's concern. That's not a St. Louis thing. That is a nationwide problem.
And interest and all they want to know, the world is curious, why did you do that? Of all the things for the chief to talk about and to release, could he have released some information on the justification for why this officer would shoot a person in broad daylight?
Could he not have to divulge to public like he asked the number of shots, he had facts and information he could have interested in but he chose to talk about something to darken up this man's past as opposed to bringing up the things that brighten up his future.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We asked the chief about the timing of the video. He said he released the footage because the media was asking for it. What's your response to that?
PARKS: Common sense would tell you it was strategic. There's no explanation you can give other than that. He made a decision to release it then. Let me take a few more last questions. Three last questions, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you in the media, sir?
PARKS: No. Only media at this time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you seen the results of the autopsy?
PARKS: Have not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What has it told you that you didn't know prior to seeing that including how many shots were fired?
PARKS: We're not going to talk about the second autopsy we did. We don't know anything about their autopsy. There will be a time for that. Two more questions. I'll come to you. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You say strategy. What game is being played?
PARKS: Well, I think the character assassination. I think you know, what all these things about Michael Brown, whatever happened in that store had nothing to do with that in terms of the officer's mind-set and his decision to shoot Michael and to kill him. Those would are not together. Anything other than that, any portrayal of him is something that's meant to be a sideshow. It's a diversion from the conduct of the officer at that time we all have to focus on the conduct of the officer at that time. That's all we have.
Thank you all so much for coming. It was important to this family that the world know that we must remain peaceful, that we've lost Mike. They're mourning. Let me say, I mean, this has been very hard for his mother and father. I can't tell you how hard, how distraught.
I mean just as overwhelming as an experience can be to a person. They're going through right now. I would hope that you would understand why they don't have the courage to walk out here for the convenience of whoever and whatever.
We hope to see you all at 3:00 at the old memorial downtown on Sunday. The family will be there. They're going to do their best to try and make it there. Thank you all so much for coming.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you confirm your name?
PARKS: Daryl Parks.
TAPPER: All right, we were listening to the attorneys and some family members for the family of Michael Brown. Let's try to put all of what we've heard in the last hour into some sort of perspective.
Joining me now is Jelani Cobb, a contributor to "The New Yorker" and the new yorker.com. He's been on the ground covering the story all week. What are we missing here? Obviously cable coverage and media coverage in general is minute by minute all the different developments. Take us back. Take a step back with us and tell us, what's the bigger picture here in?
JELANI COBB, INSTITUTE FOR AFRICAN-AMERICAN STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT: I think that you wind up with a series of incidents that point to a lack of accountability or at least a contempt for the idea of accountability from the police department in Ferguson.
Remember, at the very beginning of this, had the incident been germane had the incident in the convenience store been germane to the investigation, there would be no reasonable explanation for not having mentioned it then.
By the time they made this announcement, you know, six days later, tensions have ratcheted really, really high at this point. Nothing about the way in which they've proceed here seems to make much sense other than the possible rationale of circling the wagons around this officer.
So on Wednesday, when I posed the question to John Bellmar, the St. Louis County Police chief about the people who said they had been tear gassed in their own back yards, he chuckled and said, well, so are we. The wind blows in a particular direction, you get tear gas.
It seemed a very arrogant and dismissive kind of way of handling it. This is the same reason the people in this community are having this problem for the same reason that journalists being arrested or having the problems they are here and it's a fundamental lack of accountability.
TAPPER: I was reading up on St. Louis the other day. And what I found so interesting, St. Louis actually especially during this crazy '60s and '70s tumultuous periods of civil right protests, riots and looting it didn't happen in St. Louis.
COBB: Right. It's interesting. There's also a kind of history that's prior to that which is that St. Louis had really, really rigid housing segregation laws and restricted covenant laws. For those of us who teach civil rights history, there's a case of Shelley versus Cramer of which outlawed housing covenants.
That happened here actually. So St. Louis does have a history of this. You know, of course, East St. Louis is right across the river, famous race riot in the 1917. The long history of housing and other kinds of discrimination and tension between police and communities here it hasn't manifested the same way people are saying now.
TAPPER: Except now it's happening. That's so interesting. It didn't happen in terms of the riots in the '60s and '70s. Now it's happening. What do you make of the Brown family and their response? Obviously there's a very human response. They're in mourning. Also you have Benjamin Crump, an attorney who represented the family.
COBB: Trayvon Martin.
TAPPER: Trayvon Martin. It's an interesting attorney to choose to pick.
COBB: Yes. It's also interesting that Trayvon Martin's father is from not far from here, as well. But there is on the surface, you know, a real kind of parallel to how we see this played out with Trayvon Martin, the idea of whether or not the victim gets put on trial, whether or not you can possibly see a person as thing other than a threat.
How people interact with the police or a neighborhood watch person and fundamentally whether you have the right to your own personhood. All of those things come together again. We see it playing out in Ferguson, Missouri.
TAPPER: One of the things I au that it says right here, all these people are writing in chalk where the Quick Trip Convenience Store used to be. There's this thing that seems so poignant that says black men do matter. That seems to be almost an underlying theme of what I'm hearing from so many people here. Our lives mean something.
COBB: Right. I think that is I think fundamentally, more than anything else what will people wanted to hear was respect and recognition as human beings.
TAPPER: Jelani Cobb, thank you so much. That's all the news from Ferguson, Missouri. I'm now throwing you back to Wolf Blitzer. He is in Washington, D.C. in "THE SITUATION ROOM."