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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Protests Erupt in Major U.S. Cities; Interview with Gwen Carr; Protests Growing Across U.S. After Chokehold Decision
Aired December 4, 2014 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news, protesters gathering around the United States as police gear up for a second night of demonstrations over the chokehold death of Eric Garner.
My guest tonight, Eric Garner's mother.
Plus what happened to Garner after he was wrestled to the ground? Did police and emergency responders help him? Did they administer the right care? We actually have that video now.
And another police department under fire where a white officer shot and killed a 12-year-old black boy. New evidence tonight that the officer may not have even fit for duty.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. And OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, major demonstrations tonight, protesters gathering in mass in New York City and across the nation for a second round of protests in the wake of a grand jury decision in New York not to indict white police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man.
Again tonight there is a very heavy police presence on the streets of New York. A number of protesters is growing in many locations around this, the largest city in the country. Protesters also in major cities around the nation -- Boston, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.
This, as a New York judge released information from the Garner grand jury. This actually came in respond to a petition for public disclosure. And frankly it was basically just a series of numbers of things like how many people testified. It revealed pretty much nothing about the grand jury proceedings.
The Garner family is upset about that. We're going to speak to his mother in just one moment. But first our reporters are here on the scene at these protests. Athena Jones is in Washington with protesters. Jean Casarez is by Central Park in New York. Laurie Segall is in Times Square.
We begin, though, with Brooke Baldwin who's with a very large group of protesters in downtown New York.
Brooke, what's the mood? What are they doing? How many are gathering where you are? BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: It is grown. It has grown in
number, Erin. I would definitely estimate, I am surrounded, 360 degrees by hundreds and hundreds of people.
Let me just let you what's happened right now. So we have gone from the heart of, you know, where city government is here in downtown Manhattan. We started walking past where the police headquarters was, and everyone was headed toward the Brooklyn Bridge. We got right here which is where you would begin walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, which is a major pedestrian walkway and every -- photographer can show you, you see the sign for the Brooklyn Bridge.
And on the other side, Erin, of these massive, massive crowds, you see at the moment no one is moving because the police are not allowing these people to cross the bridge. I'm standing up here on my tiptoes just to try to see. No, I see dozens and dozens and dozens of New York police officers standing over there, not allowing them to cross. So, you know, these kinds of things like we saw last night here in the city and like we're experiencing live is all very organic.
There are different people within these crowds telling people which way to go and which way to meet and what to chant and what to say. And so far everyone has stopped for the moment, regrouping. But in talking to a bunch of people out here, they are out here -- we saw a number of cardboard coffins that passed by in the street. You see all the signs right now. But I counted at least 10 different cardboard coffins with different names.
We have been reading that some of the mothers from some of these other young men who had been shot by police officers would be here tonight. You know, we've been talking so much recently in the news about Eric Garner and Michael Brown. There are so many other names, including Sean Belle who was shot and killed eight years ago last week. His mother is supposed to be here.
So we're going to -- we're going to continue walking and make sure you continue to check back in with us. But these people, when you talk to them, they continue to chant black lives matter, no justice, no peace. They are frustrated with the police department and they call it -- what they call discriminatory killings, and they say enough is enough tonight -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Brooke Baldwin, thank you very much.
And we are going to be keeping -- going back to Brooke as the crowds gather where she is on the eastern side of Manhattan.
We also now want to go to Washington, D.C. Our Athena Jones is there.
People are gathering where you are as well as you are actually marching along with a crowd. What are you seeing? How many are with you, Athena?
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Erin. We're talking about hundreds of protesters. This is much more active, much larger protest than I saw here last night. They started outside the Justice Department. They went over by the White House. The Ellipse where the Christmas tree was being lit a couple of hours ago and then went down to 14th Street where we are now. They blocked a bridge, a major artery.
The police made two announcements warning them to get off the bridge saying that they were endangering the lives of D.C. residents by blocking traffic. You can hear them chanting here now, some of the things (INAUDIBLE) before, black lives matter. They've chanted Emit Till, Michael Brown, Emit Till, how many black people will you kill. No justice, no peace. No racist police.
And this is not just about Michael Brown and Eric Garner. They say they've telling their stories about racial profiling. Everyone here has a story to tell and they are coming out because they believe that shutting things down is going to get attention and it will help them get what they want -- make a change.
BURNETT: All right. Athena, thank you very much.
And we're going to be watching what's happening with Athena.
We are also watching, as we said, these protesters gathering in Chicago and many places around New York City, fair to describe from our reporters, they are much bigger than last night, they are much more organized, there are many more people that are a part of this last night. This is growing from what we saw yesterday.
There are new questions about what Officer Daniel Pantaleo told the grand jury and whether it actually fits with the video of Garner's death. Pantaleo said he never meant to harm the 43-year-old but did the evidence tell a different story?
Here's what we know right now from Jean Casarez.
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We now know the grand jury here in Eric Garner's case sat for nine weeks, heard from 50 witnesses and saw 60 exhibits. What evidence was actually presented to this grand jury we will never fully know because it is secret. But one has to be this video which shows officers confronting the 350- pound man.
ERIC GARNER, VICTIM: Don't touch me. Don't touch me.
CASAREZ (on camera): Is it important for the grand jury at all as the original state of mind?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it tells us a little about what the officers were confronting because they can see exactly what kind of agitated state Mr. Garner was in.
CASAREZ (voice-over): The tension is high almost from the moment officers approach Garner. It shortly becomes physical. Officer Daniel Pantaleo's attorney says his client was simply attempting to make an arrest, telling "The New York Times" he wanted to get across to the grand jury that it was never his intention to injure or harm anyone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, as we know --
CASAREZ: True intent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Intent can be inferred from watching his actions and the officer would have had to explain away in that picture.
CASAREZ (voice-over): And we now know the grand jury saw four videos.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Different angles are going to tell us different things about the vantage point or where force was being applied and when.
CASAREZ: And then the chokehold. His attorney said the officer told the grand jury it was never supposed to be a chokehold but the medical examiner confirmed that the chokehold and pressure to Garner's chest contributed to the 43-year-old's death.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The problem with these holds is that even if you start off not intending to cut off the air supply, a suspect can turn right into it very easily and cut off their own air supply. And that is why these holds have been considered incredibly dangerous and many police departments have banned them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, here's where the autopsy report becomes paramount of importance. There is, as I understand this, evidence of hemorrhage and my assumption now is that we're talking hemorrhage in the strap muscles which would occur in the type of chokehold which cuts off the circulation to the brain.
CASAREZ: Garner also had health problems that may have been a factor, including asthma, obesity and hypertensive cardiovascular disease. His last few words --
GARNER: I can't breathe.
CASAREZ: -- had become rallying cry.
Pantaleo's attorney says he acknowledged that he heard Mr. Garner saying, "I can't breathe, I can't breathe." And insisted that he tried to disengage as quickly as he could. But looking at the video Officer Pantaleo can be seen helping other officers keep Garner down, and the reality is the medical examiner ruled the death of Eric Garner a homicide, death at the hands of another. The grand jury just couldn't single out that person as Officer Daniel Pantaleo.
CASAREZ: And we do know that of the 50 witnesses that the grand jury from, about 50 percent of them were civilian witnesses, the rest were police, emergency medical and doctors. And we also know the jury was instructed on the applicable law when it comes to force in pursuit of an arrest -- Erin.
BURNETT: Jean Casarez, thank you so much. OUTFRONT now is Eric Garner's mother Gwen Carr and the family's
attorney Jonathan Moore.
And I appreciate both of you being here.
Gwen, I know that the past day and of course the past months have been completely exhausting for you and horrible in so many ways. You have now had about 24 hours since this grand jury decision. Have you been able to make sense of it? Do you accept it?
GWEN CARR, MOTHER OF ERIC GARNER: I cannot believe that they came back and didn't come back with probable cause to send this case to trial. It was devastating to me. I couldn't even answer a phone call after I heard the decision. And I just wonder, as I've been saying all day and all yesterday, what video was they watching? Because obviously it wasn't the one that the whole world was watching.
BURNETT: Which I know is, as his mother, you have never, never chosen to watch it in full and certainly I know -- I'm glad you have not.
Jonathan, we understand now from what the district attorney said, well, first of all, he said, look, I'm committed to a fair, full investigation. That's what he said. And Gwen talks about the video. We now know today there were four videos that the grand jury saw and he went through it. There were 50 witnesses, there were 22 civilians. There were the EMTs. He went through all the different pieces of information. We didn't get any details on what actually was said to the grand jury. We just got what's on our screen here.
Do you believe the DA did a fair job?
JONATHAN MOORE, GARNER FAMILY ATTORNEY: I don't believe they did a fair job. And one clear example of that is he immunized all of the police officers other than Daniel Pantaleo at the beginning of this process so that all of them could testify without fear of criminal prosecution. And you have to ask yourself, why did he do that when they were all suspects? Because it wasn't just one officer, it was this group of officers.
BURNETT: Gwen, Officer Daniel Pantaleo has spoken since this verdict. He released a statement I wanted to read, and the first of it said, "My family and I include him," talking about your son, "and his family in our prayers. And I hope they will accept my personal condolences for their loss."
I know you've had time to think about that apology. Do you accept the apology? Is that something you even want to hear from him?
CARR: I would not accept that apology on the strength of he gave no consideration to my son when he was choking him and my son was begging for his life. That was the time for an apology. He should have got up off of him and let him breathe. That's the apology that I would have wanted. Then I would have still had my son, he might have been incapacitated, but maybe I would have still had him.
BURNETT: And Officer Pantaleo talked about that moment apparently to the grand jury. He said he tried to get off your son, his words, quote, "as quick as he could." When you hear that what, do you think?
CARR: You know, hearing that -- you know, I wonder if that man should ever be an officer at all. He has no regards for human life if this is the way he treats suspects.
BURNETT: Jonathan, what do you do next here? You have an investigation with the Department of Justice, you have an investigation with the New York Police Department, the commissioner said that's going on. You have a civil lawsuit. But what happens here? Do you think you'll get federal indictment, federal charges?
MOORE: Well, we're hopeful that we will. I mean I think it's pretty apparent to almost everybody who's looked at the evidence and the evidence is not only the reality that he -- of what is seen on the video, the evidence is the medical examiner's report. The evidence is his denial that he even imposed the chokehold.
I mean, if you put that together, it should have been a no-brainer for this grand jury to not decide the case. And Mrs. Carr in the beginning, you know, stumbled because this was almost like a trial without the other party being present. And it shouldn't have been a trial. It should have been a determination of probable cause and then the transparency of a public trial to decide the guilt or innocence of these officers and that didn't happen. And that is a shame.
BURNETT: And Gwen, the protesters -- people are protesting tonight, there are even more than this that they were last night. The protests around this country, they are around the city, they are around the world. How does that make you feel? That they're out there for your son?
CARR: That really warms my heart to see that people are out there and they are actually protesting in the name of my son Eric Garner because they saw what I saw. And I am just overwhelmed and pleased that they would do that. And for that officer to ask for forgiveness after he has taken away my son, a person that I will never see again in life, and he goes home to his family every night? He sits up and watch TV or play games with his family, and I can't do that, that really breaks my heart.
BURNETT: Thanks very much to both of you.
MOORE: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, more of our breaking news coverage of the protesters gathering in mass in cities across this country. A day after a grand jury cleared a white NYPD officer in the death of an unarmed black man.
As we have said, the crowds are much bigger. They are much more organized than what we saw yesterday.
Plus what happened after Eric Garner was released from the chokehold. We're going to show you the shocking video in the moments after Garner fell to the ground. Did they do anything to help him?
And striking similarities between Garner's case and Rodney King. Could the chokehold case end up with the feds?
BURNETT: Breaking news, bigger crowds than we have yet seen, taking to the streets of New York City and across the nation tonight. We are looking right now at live pictures. This is Baltimore. Anger over another grand jury deciding not to indict a white police officer on the death of a black man.
This again is Baltimore that you are looking at live on your screen but these demonstrations are across the country. They are chanting, no justice, no peace, some along with Garner's last words which were, "I can't breathe."
Brooke Baldwin was with protesters tonight. And a few moments ago, Brooke, when I saw you, you were trying to get on to the Brooklyn Bridge. Now you are actually moving. Did the police finally let the protesters on that bridge?
BALDWIN: We are. They have. And I have to say there is a number of New York police officers and you can see folks within the community relations of New York PD. They're out here with us. And you can see -- I don't know if you can quite yet, but the skyline behind us, and we are now officially on the Brooklyn Bridge.
It's interesting how so much of this is so organic, Erin. We all started at Foley Square about half an hour ago. Excuse us. We started about half an hour ago. And a lot of different groups is splintered off in different directions. But I've been marching with -- and give me your first names.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Zemar (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dutchin (ph).
BALDWIN: And I appreciate you all, letting me walk with you. And as we walk and talk, it's one of the colder nights in New York so far. I've been pretty impressed with the crowd size, to be honest.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's actually getting colder but I think we're all still going to be here until really late.
BALDWIN: What is it about -- has it been the recent news events? Has it been the non indictment with the Eric Garner death in the last 24, 48 hours that propelled you to come out? Why walk?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like the movement is already underway, but I guess the Eric Garner news just kind of just propelled it over the top, and just accelerated the whole process. So it's kind of why -- we are out here tonight, that kind of give us the opportunity to come and kind of voice our opinion over this whole matter.
BALDWIN: You know, in hearing from New York police, they wanted to give protesters breathing room and so far I'm seeing things mostly peaceful, I think one of the big question that was asked, at least on our air was, do you think that there are two separate justice systems in this country?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. It makes no sense. My mom just walking the streets one time, an officer approached her and he checked her I.D. And almost gave her a ticket for having both her permit and her license with her. And I don't think it even made sense like, what can we do? I was doing homework last night and I was like, what's the point? Because nothing really members, actually.
BALDWIN: And there are incredible, incredible members of our law enforcement in this country as well, but I appreciate both of you for letting me walk with you.
And, Erin, just stay with us as we're sort of gathering -- grabbing and gathering point. It looks like we're stopping. We'll continue to talk to you all throughout the night.
BURNETT: All right. We'll watch them. Obviously New York City in many ways, in many parts, sort of pockets that are completely shutting down here.
Chris Welch is in downtown New York City tonight.
Chris, what's happening where you are?
CHRIS WELCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, it sounds like it's pretty similar to what Brooke is seeing, although we are actually on Broadway, obviously it goes without saying Broadway, a major thoroughfare here in New York City. And we're seeing crowds of people. You know, we started in Foley Square, the same place Brooke started. Foley Square, where there were at least a thousand, maybe 2,000 people that came out to protest tonight.
Now that group has split off. We know Brooke was headed in the direction of the Brooklyn Bridge if I'm not mistaken. Now we are walking north on Broadway towards Midtown. We can actually see, if you look way in the distance, the Chrysler Building. We have -- it's safe to say there is probably going to be some frustrated drivers tonight but if you talk to people in this crowd, Erin, that is the least of their concerns. This is all about getting their message out.
Everyone here, the vast majority of the people here believe that this is systemic issue in America. We have a problem with race relations with police in America.
I just wanted to give you another look at what we're seeing here. Crowds of people just wandering through traffic, obviously these drivers did not expect this tonight but they might be sitting here for just a little while -- Erin.
BURNETT: Sitting there for a long time. As we said, the crowds tonight --
WELCH: I also I think I have --
BURNETT: Significantly bigger than what we saw last night. At least across this city. But also you can see in the country, in Chicago and Boston and other cities. We're going to be going there in just a moment.
I want to bring in now, though, retired NYPD detective Harry Houck, along with retired chief deputy U.S. Marshal Matthew Fogg.
Harry, I want to take another look, go back to the heart of this issue for people who are trying to understand the passion of these protesters, the anger of these protesters. The video we saw of police taking down Eric Garner in the last moments of his life. So in this video you see Officer Pantaleo put his arm around Eric Garner's neck from behind. OK. That's Officer Pantaleo there for people, from behind, with the green shirt and yellow writing. Garner died shortly after this.
You have made the case that you believe what we see here was good policing. That this was right.
HOWARD HOUCK, RETIRED NYPD DETECTIVE: Correct.
BURNETT: All right. Make that case again.
HOUCK: OK. Who watch this video, and I watched it several times again today.
HOUCK: All right. The officer talks to him first, tries to get him to submit to an arrest and he doesn't. Then he backs off like this with his hands and then he makes some kind of comment like you're not going to take me again. OK. I'm not going to put up with this, all right. So then what happens is the officer now knows, all right, that's an aggressive move. When you tell a police officer you're not going to take me, I'm not going to put up with this anymore, that's an aggressive.
So as a police officer, you've got to make an aggressive move towards him before he makes one towards you now. All right. That's why that second officer came up behind him.
BURNETT: That's Officer Daniel Pantaleo.
HOUCK: Right. Officer Pantaleo came up behind him, he put him in that neck hold and what I like to call and a lot of us call a takedown. All right. Now that is the only way you're going to take down a person who does not want to be arrested, all right, who was six foot something, 350 pounds. That is the only way he's going to get down. And then once he got down, the officers, and as you can see in the video, nobody was punching him. All right. They are just trying to get him handcuffed. All right.
BURNETT: All right. OK, Matt. So Harry is making his case. Does he have a point?
MATTHEW FOGG, FORMER CHIEF DEPUTY, U.S. MARSHAL: Absolutely not. No. The officer -- I've made hundreds of arrests and been supervised thousands. Let me tell you something, when you see the fact that this man put his hands in the air, he was a little upset and we are trained to deal with that type of confrontation but for this officer to walk around behind him, put his hand -- his arm around him, that was a chokehold.
Everybody saw that. I mean, that's why the New York Police Department outruled that. You don't do -- you don't make an arrest like that and then at the same time once the other officers came into play he could have just let him go. But now he is mashing on his head, holding him down, and this actually kills him. I mean, we're talking about a man that died behind the very thing that the coroner said that was the cause of death.
BURNETT: They now -- they did rule it as a homicide at that point. I want to show the other video from that day to both of you, because this is what happened after he went down in the chokehold. A few minutes went by that they called for the EMT. So this is what it looked like in those moments after the confrontation.
BURNETT: You see Eric Garner, and many viewers have not seen this before, lying on the ground. He lies there for more than six minutes as officers wait for an ambulance.
BURNETT: Because they've called an ambulance. EMS worker finally arrives, takes Garner's pulse.
Harry, was this handled properly at this point? This is a guy who's just been saying, "I can't breathe, I can't breathe."
HOUCK: Yes, I mean --
BURNETT: They waited six minutes. Could they have helped him? Should they have helped him?
HOUCK: You can't tell from this video whether or not he was breathing or not, or his heart is beating. All right. I watched this video several times today and I'm sitting here watching it. When I see the EMS person come up and take his pulse, all right, what, do people want her to go into a frenzy? I mean, EMS people deal with this kind of stuff all the time. She went over and felt his pulse, he had a pulse and he was breathing.
All right. So their next step now is to pick him up and put him in the ambulance. All right. There wasn't really much for EMS to do at that time. Nobody knew he was dying at that time.
BURNETT: All right. So let me -- except where he had said, I can't breathe, I can't breathe.
Matthew, let me play that moment when he gets to put on to the gurney into the ambulance.
FOGG: Right. BURNETT: We'll play that so people can see this moment, right. They
lift him up, he is a big guy. It takes a few of them. It is a pretty awkward process. They lift him up on to the gurney and then there is a conversation that happened with a bystander. We're going to play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why didn't you do CPR?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody did nothing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because he's breathing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's breathing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, Matthew, you hear the police that the bystander says they didn't do anything. They didn't do anything.
BURNETT: And police say because he's breathing. So at that point they thought he was breathing. Does that in any way justify what they did?
FOGG: No. It tells me they're complicit in this guy's death because of the fact that they should have -- all of our training in law enforcement teaches us CPR. It teaches us immediately if someone -- once we've got the area contained, we got the subject contained, we should immediately respond with CPR. Officers there could have done it and you had the EMTs. They're checking this guy's heart.
HOUCK: But he was breathing.
FOGG: Just like this guy was a bear or something. Nobody doing anything --
HOUCK: You won't do CPR when someone was breathing, Mr. Fogg. You should know that.
FOGG: I cannot breathe, and then he was unconscious. I mean, look, when you look at this, I'm going to tell you, this is the same -- this is the problem I have with NYPD when I used to work up there on operations. They just had this sort of vigilante way. A lot of times they would jump out on people, do things to people.
I had to tell NYPD officers on time when I was running operations, you will not operate this way here in front of me. And that's when I look at -- even when I look at that guy, (INAUDIBLE).
FOGG: The fact that they brought him into the police station knowing other officers will see it.
HOUCK: Let's stay on the subject.
FOGG: It is a situation that where I'm seeing.
FOGG: It was obvious this man needed help and they didn't give to him.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much to Matthew and to Harry.
And you are looking right now, everyone, at live pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge. As you can see, one span completely shut down. You have thousands -- obviously thousands of protesters who are now on that bridge. Thousands in other locations in New York City, in Baltimore, in Chicago, in Boston, in Washington.
We are live around the country and our breaking news coverage continues of the mass demonstrations across the country. The common rallying cry of the demonstrators is Eric Garner's last words which were, "I can't breathe."
We'll be live in these protests.
And another major police officer department is under investigation tonight. One of its officers shot and killed a 12-year-old black child, that story is coming up.
BURNETT: Breaking news: you are looking at live pictures right now from New York City. Protesters are flooding the Brooklyn Bridge.
Demonstrators are gathering across major cities in the United States for a second night after a grand jury decision not to indict a white NYPD officer who was involved in the chokehold death of 43-year-old Eric Garner, an unarmed black man. The grand jury cleared Officer Daniel Pantaleo of any wrongdoing and he is still employed with the NYPD, and they now have an internal investigation going on.
Our Brooke Baldwin is with protesters walking across Brooklyn Bridge.
And, Brooke, I keep wanting to check in with you, just because when we see those aerial shots, there are thousands and thousands of people. Where you are now, I can see a few. But from the air, that bridge is completely shut down on one span with protesters.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are in the middle of the shut down section of the bridge. We're about 20 feet behind the protesters and we paused to talk to you here live on TV.
But, yes, we are on the Brooklyn down side, and if you've walked on the Brooklyn Bridge, there's a pedestrian walkway just sort of above us. I am standing where people should normally be driving. But police ahead of time knew this would be a route that protesters would take and they intentionally ahead of time shut it down, they didn't want to have protesters walking about in the middle of traffic, which is sort of similar to what we saw last night on the West Side Highway.
You can hear and I can see one of the helicopters buzzing above and pretty interesting actually, I noticed the police patrol boats in the river below me. And in addition to this, I don't know if you can see quite over my right shoulder, but there are eight police officers and they are just staying with the crowds. They are giving them -- I keep saying breathing room -- but this is how the police are sort of phrasing it to us. They want to make sure that the protesters can come out here and can use their voices, can speak, can march peacefully.
I was talking to one of the -- one of the cops a minute ago, and he said, so far so good. So far so good. You know, last night, there were 83 arrests, most for disorderly conduct. Haven't gotten any numbers yet tonight, haven't seen with my own eyes, Erin, any arrests tonight. But we're just going to continue to walk. I mean, it's not often ever you see police shutting down the Brooklyn Bridge.
I see cars passing on the other side but they intentionally shut down the Brooklyn-bound side of the bridge so that these protesters could gather and speak -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Brooke, thank you.
And now, the highest ranking African-American in the New York Police Department, that's what he was when the fatal chokehold death of Eric Garner happens.
Philip Banks retired as chief of department after 28 years with the NYPD. He is OUTFRONT with me now, along with my colleague, Don Lemon.
OK. Good to have both of you with us.
Philip, let me start with you. You were the highest ranking African- American at NYPD when Eric Garner died. Do you agree with the grand jury?
PHILIP BANKS III, FORMER NYPD CHIEF OF DEPARTMENT: First of all, I was not only the highest African-American, I was the highest ranking uniformed member of the department as well, and that somehow gets lost in that particular message.
Do I agree with the grand jury? I don't know. I wasn't privy to all of the facts that was presented to the grand jury. I don't know what went into the total process. I certainly know Dan Donovan, and I have a good relationship with him. I thought he was professional and upstanding, so I'm not going to question the outcome of the grand jury.
I would say though is that, historically, the criminal justice system has proven to have a lot of biases in it. So I think what you are seeing today is people are questioning the criminal justice system, not any specific verdict or outcome that --
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Can I ask something, Erin?
LEMON: So, you're civilian now. Are you a civilian now?
BANKS: I am a civilian.
LEMON: And you seem to be prouder of the fact that you were a uniformed officer than you were --
BANKS: Absolutely not. I was extremely, extremely proud, the highest ranking African-American, I --
BANKS: But I'm very proud to be the highest ranking --
LEMON: But I want to ask you, though, what you see when you look at that videotape, what do you see?
BANKS: I see the police department as a whole, not just the officers actually on the -- not at its best. Looking at it, I think that we could have done a better job, independent of Eric Garner's actions or lack thereof. I think the situation could have been handled a lot better.
LEMON: How so?
BANKS: Well, I think that -- I'm not so sure that Eric Garner was under the typical resisting type of situation. I think that more time could have been waiting for a supervisor to respond to that particular scene. But the New York City Police Department handles millions of these incidents every single year, and, quite frankly, overall majority of them we handle correctly.
So, I certainly would have liked to have seen that handled a little bit differently, any situation where we lose the life of someone. I'm going to say we could have done something differently.
BURNETT: So, the reason they did this was because they said he was selling cigarettes illegally, that there'd been a bunch of calls from the stores there, said, look, I'm paying taxes on my cigarettes and this guy is putting me out of business because he is selling cigarettes illegally. When you were in charge, you were one of the ones that said, look, the New York Police Department needs to be more responsive to these sorts of calls. When you get a bunch of calls from somebody, we need to go respond.
So, it was in part because of that policy maybe that they were there and trying to be vigilant and trying to go after this. Does that make you think twice about that policy?
BANKS: Well, I'm not sure what specific policy you're addressing.
LEMON: I think she's talking about broken windows, right?
BURNETT: And having that 311, which here in New York, you can call and try to get assistance.
BANKS: Broken windows and 311 are completely two different issues. The policy that came out of my office as the chief of the department was that whenever we got chronic 311 calls, is that the local commander had to contact the caller and address the problem. Addressing the problem necessarily doesn't always equal you have to taken enforcement action. More times than not, we want you to contact the complainant to get to the root of the problem.
So, my office policy was very clear. If we have someone calling 311 numerous times, it means in that person's mind, the caller's mind, there is an issue.
BURNETT: And that happened in this case.
BANKS: And that happened in this case. It doesn't mean there was a problem, but in that particular person's mind, there was an issue. So, the positives are already clear, reach out to the complainant and get to the bottom of what the story was, not necessarily, quote, "taking enforcement action."
But I want to be clear, sometimes enforcement action is necessary to take.
BURNETT: And I want to ask you to the point, and get both of you to weigh in on this, this issue when you said, look, I was the top uniformed officer and not just the top African-American, even though you were proud of that as well. I want to give you the stats of what happens in New York, because this happens in other places around the country. Whites make up 52 percent nearly of the uniformed force in New York City last year. Blacks about 16 percent, OK? Twenty-five percent of the population of New York City is African-American.
So, you can call that in line or you can call not in line. But here's what's not in line: 8.5 percent of the police executives in New York City are black.
How big of a problem is that?
BANKS: Well, the numbers speak for themselves. It is a problem. And if you think that is important, that the high ranking of the New York City Police Department should reflect the makeup of the city, then statistically it's certainly a problem. That is not to suggest that Police Commissioner Kelly or Police Commissioner Bratton was not taking steps to address those particular issues. I think they were taking those issues --
BURNETT: But Ferguson, they didn't take that into issue either.
LEMON: Listen, and that's a pretty good number, as you said, 51 percent, 51 percent, 26 percent for Hispanics, 6 percent for Asians, and blacks. It's about the same.
So, it's really almost 50/50 when it comes to whites and non-whites in the department. But having said what you said about high ranking officers, I have to ask you, so why did you offered to?
BANKS: I don't think you have that much time left in this particular program to --
LEMON: That's a big issue here in New York.
BANKS: I resigned, because I love the New York City Police Department that much. And certainly I love the New York City Police Department. And I have a discussion with Police Commissioner Bratton, and I have a lot of respect for. We agreed on most things, we had some disagreement on a couple of issues --
LEMON: On what, because there's a big mystery. I think there should be some transparency, especially on this moment. What happened?
BANKS: That was a private conversation that me and Police Commissioner Bratton had. I'm not so sure if this is the particular time to discuss that issue. I know that when I read the papers, which after my retirement it read a lot juicier than actually what it was. The reason why I retired, I communicated that to Commissioner Bratton, he graciously accepted my retirement papers.
LEMON: It was about diversity. Was it over --
BANKS: I'm not sure this is the perfect time to discuss that. But I'm supportive of the New York City Department, and certainly, I'm very supportive of Mayor De Blasio.
BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much. We appreciate your time.
BANKS: Thank you.
BURNETT: And, Don, thank so much.
And next, breaking news, as we follow the growing protests around the country here in New York, we've shown you some aerial shots of the Brooklyn Bridge, thousands of demonstrators marching across that roadway.
Plus, a federal investigation revealing a pattern of excessive force by police in another American city. That department is already under fire for the death of a 12-year-old boy. Was the officer unfit for duty who killed him? That story coming up.
BURNETT: Breaking news, live pictures in New York City right now. Thousands of people have converged to speak out against what they see as police brutality on the streets. They are in New York City. They are across the country. The use of excessive force is now priority at the White House. Today,
the Attorney General Eric Holder said it has to stop. He announced the findings from a review that uncovered reckless behavior by the Cleveland Police Department. This department is underfire after an officer killed a 12-year-old boy who was holding a pellet gun. And tonight, there is growing evidence that the officer was unfit for duty.
Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The surveillance video shows a boy walking near a playground. He is 12-year-old Tamir Rice and he is playing with a toy -- an air soft gun that from a distance can look like a real gun.
A bystander calls 911.
CALLER: There is a guy in here with a pistol. You know, it's probably fake, but he's like pointing it at everybody.
LAH: Less than two seconds after police drive up, the 12-year-old again carrying a toy is shot and killed at close range. The 26-year- old police officer who shot him, Timothy Loehmann had only recently been hired by the Cleveland Police.
At his previous job at the Independence Police Department, Officer Loehmann's personnel records show he was in the process of being fired. His supervisor describing an emotional meltdown and behavior that shows a pattern of a lack of maturity and discretion and not following instructions.
But the Cleveland police never asked to see Loehmann's personnel records, a policy the department says has now changed.
Tamir Rice's death, the backdrop as the Department of Justice laid a stinging report on the Cleveland Police Department.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The investigation concluded that there is a reasonable cause to believe that the Cleveland police engaged in a patter and practice of unreasonable force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
LAH: The investigation took two years, finding Cleveland police officers used unnecessary and unreasonable force at a significant rate, including officers who shoot at people who do not pose an imminent threat of serious bodily harm to officers, that they hit people in the head with their guns, or where use of deadly force is not justified, and that there are systemic deficiencies, failures by higher ups to investigate officer-involved shootings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We found frankly that sometimes a rubber stamp mentality or approach exists to these kinds of incidents of excessive force and when accountability falters, trust also falters. LAH: A federal court will now keep tabs on the Cleveland police as
part of a legal agreement, while the announcement was set in Cleveland, the attorney general said as seen in Ferguson and in New York, the problem is not contained by city limits.
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The tragic losses of these and far too many other Americans have really raised urgent national questions and they have sparked an important conversation about the sense of trust that must exist between law enforcement and the communities that they serve and protect.
LAH: And just to give you a sense of the outrage that's out there, there was a Facebook post and tweet posted by the St. Louis County police, not in Cleveland but the St. Louis County police. And this tweet essentially said, quote, "Kids will be kids. Counseling parents on making sure their kids don't play with realistic looking toy guns outside."
Well, this was immediately slammed in social media, Erin. The police removed it, saying that it was not their intent to blame the victim -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Kyung Lah, thank you very much.
And next, our breaking news coverage continues as thousands and thousands gather around the country. In Washington, D.C., protesters and many thousands of them gathering here as you can see. Traffic is at a complete stand-still. We'll be right back.
BURNETT: Breaking news: protesters marching across the country right now, shutting down half of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, one entire span. As you can see, thousands marching across that. This is a live picture you're looking at New York City, protesting the grand jury decision not to indict a white police officer in the death of a black man.
The encounter before Eric Garner's death was all caught on tape. We have just learned that the president of the United States, President Obama, watched that video. It's rare they would actually come and say that, but we now know that President Obama has watched that video.
And right now in Washington, Athena Jones is following protesters who are marching in the streets there.
And, Athena, what are you seeing? And as more and more are gathering, are you seeing the same increase in intensity there as we are here?
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Erin.
Well, you can see that we're on the move again. We just left the Metropolitan Police Department here in Central Washington. This is a high-energy crowd. It's been largely peaceful. There's been no big scuffles, no big
interactions with the police. But they have periodically stopped to block intersections, to lie down in front of cars, including police cars. So, there have been some tense moments.
But for the most part, while they're angry, it's been peaceful. A lot of folks here seem to have a positive outlook on what they're doing here. They believe they're making a difference.
Several people have mentioned the '60s. One person said this is what it took. If you look at the history books, in the '60s, this time it's action is what it took to make change. So, a lot of people I've talked to here truly believe that they're going to make a difference by coming out.
So, a lot of activity here. They covered, what, 3.5 miles of the city. We're going to keep following them.
Erin, back to you.
BURNETT: All right. Athena, thank you very much. She's marching through Washington with the protesters there. Again, the president of the United States has viewed that video that we've showed of Eric Garner's death.
OUTFRONT next, the protest here in New York City are continuing to multiply as the minutes go by. Thousands and thousands more demonstrators are converging. There are several major spots. Many of them coming over the Brooklyn Bridge. Some going up Broadway and others in other squares in New York.
We will be back live in those protests after this.
BURNETT: All right. These are two live pictures of protests that are going on in New York City right now. We just saw actually a die-in, where people are lying in as Eric Garner had died. Protests right now in Boston, Raleigh, Baltimore, Chicago, Pittsburgh, around the country, much, much bigger than last night. More are gathering.
Our breaking news coverage continues with "AC360".