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Waco Police on Alert; Interview with Author of 'Inside Biker Gangs Crime Empire'. Aired 14:00-14:30p ET.
Aired May 19, 2015 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: "Newsroom" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Here we go, top of the hour, I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thank you for being with me. We begin in Waco, Texas where police say the threats against them by bikers have quote, unquote, toned down. But today they say they're still keeping their guard up, two days after this bloodbath in this parking lot that left nine bikers dead, 18 injured, and 170 people, accused gang members, all charged.
PATRICK SWANTON, WACO, TEXAS POLICE: There have been credible, reliable threats against law enforcement in and around our area. I will tell you those who have toned down a bit the last 24 hours. We are absolutely thankful of that. I've made mention last night that there's been enough tragedy and there's been enough bloodshed in Waco, Texas, we would appreciate there not be any more.
BALDWIN: And I want to share a picture that is pretty rare to see. I mean, a mugshot after mugshot after mugshots after mugshot. All of these picture represent $170 million worth of bond. You heard me. Authorities say every single person arrested is being charged with engaging in organized crime with a $1 million bond apiece. And more arrests are expected. We'll go into maybe capital murder charges in just a minute with my lawyer sitting next to me.
But the seven shooting victims, I can tell you in the hospital, they are under guard, and police will not confirm what a law enforcement source tells CNN, that four of the nine killed were shot by police. They did say this entire shoot-out started after a biker gang that was not invited showed up to a biker gathering at this restaurant, twin peak restaurant. The gang, experts say this, patches on the bikers' leather jackets could have triggered the bloodbath.
The banditos crew own this area of Texas apparently, according to experts. The Texas patch at the bottom called a bottom rocker. Expert tells CNN banditos may have taken some serious offense to a classic different gang wearing the same bottom rocker. But some banditos said, the gang is getting a bad rap with from a couple of bad apples. Take a listen.
JIMMY GRAVES, HIGH RANKING BANDITOS MEMBER: We are not gangs. We don't appreciate gangs. We don't appreciate being called a gang. We don't like it. We've never been a gang. BALDWIN: With me now, the author of this book, "Angels of Death:
Inside the Biker Gangs' Crime Empire." I have investigative journalist Julian Sher. And Julian, I mean, listen, we're getting this education here in these gangs. And I first have to ask you, these patches, I mean, how can you have their bloodbath, this massive shoot-out over a patch on someone's jacket? Can you explain this to me?
JULIAN SHER, AUTHOR, "ANGELS OF DEATH": It seems crazy, right, a piece of cloth and nine dead bodies.
BALDWIN: Totally crazy.
SHER: And a lot of blood. But that's what these bikers are about. I mean, I've spent years talking with them and interviewing them. This is a gang, contrary to what that guy said. They wear uniforms. It's an army. And that patch, they will die for that patch. They will - they will kill for that patch. Because it's about pride, but it's also about territory. I got off the phone with a veteran biker cop who'd been investigating the banditos for most of his career.
And he said that traditionally the Cossacks, who also have been around for 30 years, got along more of less the banditos there are only 150 of them compared to the banditos more than a thousand. But the Cossacks insisted they had their time and they wanted to put the word Texas on their bottom rocker or the bottom of their patch. And for the banditos, the banditos are competing with the hells angels around the world, around the U.S., but Texas was their home state. They were not going to see an inch.
So to think that something like this would explode over something so small I think goes to the mentality. This is an organized crime biker gang. And as they like to say, cut one of us, we all bleed.
BALDWIN: To the criminality, I mean, I know you mention patches and you mentioned territory. But I also understand this is about money. This is about turning a profit. This is about selling drugs, this is about who has the money most, yes?
SHER: Absolutely. These are businesses. Literally franchises where you have to apply to be able to set up a bandito franchise. It's about...
BALDWIN: You've got to be kidding me.
SHER: It's about the power and vroom. It's about drugs, methamphetamine, cocaine, and it's about controlling the territory. There have been violent, violent explosions in Europe where the banditos have gone to war again their rivals, in Canada, in Australia. You know, I think it's time Americans wake up and realize as I'm very fond of saying America's gift to the world are biker gangs. It is America's number-one crime export. The only major organized group that came from America and has now filtered around the world.
[14:10:00] BALDWIN: Let me ask but this because you know and I know we heard the sergeant in Waco talking down maybe this threat that there have been fears, right, that other gang members would all be headed to Waco for possibly retribution. I mean, do you think that that is what some of these bikers who would be considered, you know, armed and very dangerous would engage in another shoot-out? I mean, heard from somebody who infiltrated gangs for decades and said no way. They just want to go and take care of business while 170 of their friends are in jail.
SHER: Well, I don't think they'll try to attack police, but they will take their time and reap vengeance on their rivals. They see this as a long...
BALDWIN: What does vengeance look like for them?
SHER: Well, vengeance looks like an eye for an eye. The last time we had this kind of shooting in a casino in Laughlin back in 2002, in Nevada, two rival gang, same idea, public place, guns go off, three people dead. Within 24 hours, one other member of a rival gang was killed as retribution. The banditos aren't going to take this lying down. But now in many ways, the focus will switch to the courts.
The problem is that the challenge to police and prosecution has is that you've got two levels that they're going to try to prove. You've got a crime. You've got murder. But they're also being charged, you know, with organized crime charge. Basically racketeering. And the challenge, that's where these court cases often fall apart, is you've got to be able to prove the underlying, the predicate crime, and then you've got to prove it was part of an organized crime conspiracy. And that's a tough doubleheader to hit.
BALDWIN: We're about to go there on the legalities of all of this. Julian Sher, thank you very much. I appreciate it. Author of "Angels of Death: Inside the Biker Gangs' Crime Empire." So let's talk about what they're being charged with and the 170 bikers now facing a million bucks in bond apiece. You know, that could really be the least of their problems for a few of these faces. Waco police say some in this group could be charged with capital murder.
That is murder of two or more. Because of just the sheer number of people who were killed in the shoot-out. So let me bring in CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Danny Cevallos. And first, I mean, looking at the picture - like it continues to scroll and continues to scroll. All these faces, a 170 people. I was reading the Waco paper this morning saying the booking process in and of itself has been painstakingly slow.
DANNY CEVALLOS, LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, it's like - like sporting event almost. Getting all the tickets. That many people you have to get in through - you have to process. Takes a while. The civilians are always shocked to find out how long the criminal booking process takes. It takes hours and hours and hours. And you have to have an initial appearance eventually before a magistrate. And the sheer troop movements in the case like this...
BALDWIN: Can you do some separate? What I read... CEVALLOS: That's the other part, too. With this many people,
from the arrest going forward, keeping them separate, keeping them from communicating with each other, keeping them from even transferring evidence, even if that evidence comes in the form of microscopic dust that is gunshot residue. You could slap someone's hand, transfer that. They probably won't get any effective gunshot residue testing - you saw in the aerial shot, they were all sitting next to each other. An interesting way to sort of harvest your suspects or harvest your arrestees because they're all together with their cell phones. Who knows what communication's going on.
BALDWIN: Sorry, can you repeat that? OK. I'm told we're having mic issue. Stand by, Danny Cevallos.
Coming up, next a provocative discussion. Danny was just referencing the photo of all these biker sitting around on their cell phones. Is the coverage of the biker shoot-out showing a double standard when it comes to race, media, what about how the police responded? We'll talk with all sides of the debate.
Also ahead, ISIS, reportedly using a sandstorm to capture a major Iraqi city. Hear how they did it.
And the mystery grows around the murders of a family inside a mansion not too far from the vice president's residence. We're about to hear from the housekeeper who was told at the last minute do not come to work.
You're watching CNN, we'll be right back.
[14:10:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BALDWIN: You're watching CNN, I'm Brooke Baldwin. Back to this biker bloodbath in Waco. Where nine people were killed confuting comparisons to another city 700 miles away that's seen its share of violence, I'm talking about Ferguson, Missouri it's one of the places. Observers noting image of bikers calmly by Waco police officers, some of them on their cell phones. Contrasting that image to this the moments with protesters were outraged over police brutality were arrested. Let's have a big conversation about this Sally Kohn, joins me now along with CNN Political Commentator Charles Blow and CNN law enforcement analyst, Harry Houck.
And so all of you are here together with me. I know you Sally, wrote an opinion piece for cnn.com, you have been all over Twitter. And I really just wanted to make sure we had a law enforcement voice in all of this. So, Charles Blow, let me just begin with you in the notion of this double standard both as it pertains to police responses to these kinds of violent outbursts and also media. But to you first because you pointed out curfew and discussions about single-parent homes and national guard, you know, as you were watching this unfold. You say yes to a double standard.
CHARLES BLOW, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think you broke it down properly which is there's a media double standard, and then there's a response double standard. The media double standard is that when we are talking about this in relation to people of color, particularly African-Americans in cities, particularly northern cities, and we have to make sure we have that regional distinction made here, this is happening in Texas.
[14:15:00] Almost all of the incidents we've been talking about where young black men have encountered police officers have been in the cities to which black people migrated during the great migrations in both the first and second wave. This is not the rural area. We have to dislodge our idea of what race and racism could look like from being a southern thing to being a national thing, and particularly the north has to start looking at theirs. And the fact that we as a media are centered, like the national media is centered in the north and east and out west colors the language that we use to discuss...
BALDWIN: Be specific.
BLOW: Whether or not we're going to call people thugs or not. Whether or not we're going to say that they are gays, whether we are going to call this is a melee or brawl, which is what I've seen a lot of. When you see nine people dead you know, possibly hundreds injured, 170 people arrested, that is not - that's not - what I call a brawl. And whether or not you're going to apply the word thug to one group of people and this is not just the White people applying it, this is the president applying it, this is the mayor of Baltimore applying it. This is about a culture that look at blackness and says that it's bound by a certain thing. It looks like a certain thing to me. I am refracting that back to them.
BALDWIN: I'm hearing the geographic distinctions and talking specifically about coverage. I know you're nodding. You write a lot about white privilege. Can you also be specific on police response? Then I'm coming to you.
SALLY KOHN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Let's give two examples here. One with respect to policing. And again, when we're talking about bias, we're not singling out. This is where it gets hard. Not that one cop, that one person. It's a trend. It's a pattern. Something we're all guilty of.
Look, we have police who knew that the "Criminal Biker Gang" armed to the hilt would be at the restaurant. They sat back and waited and watched. And meanwhile and everywhere else in the country, we find Black and Brown men routinely stopped and frisked walking to work, let alone guns pulled on them when they are walking on their way to work or peacefully protesting in places like Ferguson or Baltimore.
So the difference of the police response there after the arrests were made, sitting around, not handcuffed. Also then also, it is the media response, the fact that when Black and Brown people commit crimes, we call - we note their race. And when White people do, we don't note their race. We don't - the majority of mass shootings are caused by White men. We don't say we have this epic problem of whiteness. What's the matter with white-on-white crime.
BALDWIN: Is this one major distinction being the fact these were criminals - criminal-on-criminal violence, the bikers. And what we saw in Baltimore, for example, most recently was some of the people from within the community, rioters setting fire to a CVS, looting, is that different from what happened in wake no?
HARRY HOUCK, LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I don't know how you can compare Waco to Baltimore, I really don't are. These guys thugs? Yes, they're thugs.
BALDWIN: Who, the bikers?
HOUCK: It motorcycle bikers. They're thugs. I mean bad guy when I use the word. I think the word was owned by rappers. They started coming out with songs and calling themselves thugs. I not that's how this started with the black community and the young men calling themselves thugs. All right. I think that's how that started. To compare what happened in Baltimore, in Waco, two different situations here. We are police that in an area under control after the gunfight. Of course you have people standing around, they're not handcuffed. They're not under arrest. That's why they're on their cell phones. But how do you know (CROSSTALKS)
BALDWIN: You're pointing out.
HOUCK: Do you know the ones on cell phones were under arrest? (CROSSTALKS)
BLOW: That is patently inaccurate to say that the thugs, the entomology, began with rappers...
BALDWIN: I don't think that's what this is about, by the way.
BLOW: Let me make sure that doesn't become part of what we're talking about. It's not true.
HOUCK: I believe - it goes back to India.
BLOW: Exactly. Whether or not the kind of appropriation and trying - whether or not that word is absorbed into the community the way people object sober the word - "N" word to absorb it into the culture to make it less abrasive and hurtful. A lot of times that is what's happening with the entomology of words.
BALDWIN: Let me take a quick break. Hold the thoughts. I want to have a longer discussion on this. Quick break. We'll be right back. Sally Kohn, Charles Blok, Harry Houck.
[14:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BALDWIN: Sally Kohn, Harry Houck, Charles Blow, were all sitting here, discussing is there a double standard when it comes to covering to Waco or Ferguson for example or Baltimore. I want to go back to the picture. Troy, if you can put the picture up of the scene really big on the screen from Waco. We'll call them what they are. Gang members, these criminals, right 170 of them have been arrested. Some of whom may be charged with capital murder. That's not the picture, but we're going to get there. And you're going to see in a minute, these bikers standing around
on their phones. And Harry, I want to pick up with you because it's important to hear your voice, law enforcement perspectives. Critics have said, juxtapose this with Baltimore or Ferguson, bikers about to be arrested, hanging out on their phones, and police, you know - not doing enough. That's what critics say.
HOUCK: But are all those people standing around on their phones the ones that were arrested? That's the question. I'm sure there were quite a few who weren't arrested. There were a lot of people there. I can see as a police officer, I would take the cell phone away or have them in handcuffs. Having someone sit and texting, you're going to be arrested later - I don't see the Waco Police Department making that kind of mistake.
KOHN: What's the difference with all due deference to my friend, Harry, when we talk about racial bias, we're talking about patterns. The pattern of, OK, let's excuse away the fact that these mostly White bikers were not handcuffed, were using cell phones, they must not have been a threat versus Black as well as Brown folks, even just walking down the streets of their hometown minding their own business, not involved in any kind of criminal behavior whatsoever, being threatened by the police, stopped by police, shot by the police. That's the problem you know, we know in surveys that White Americans overestimate the percentage of crime committed by Black people. That's because we in the media and in society perpetuate these ideas that when White people commit crimes, it's an aberration, but when Black people (CROSSTALKS)
BALDWIN: Talking about the shootings... (CROSSTALKS)
HOUCK: You can't compare Baltimore and Waco.
KOHN: We do... (CROSSTALKS)
HOUCK: I know you. Do - you do. That's a stretch. Great talking points for you for what you believe in. The fact is, each situation is different. I mean, a riot in Baltimore where there's a community involved in something going on compared to an area that's cordoned off by the police. And to be talking we've got to (CROSSTALKS)
BALDWIN: A lot of people agree with you.
KOHN: Compare Ferguson and Baltimore...
BLOW: Let's take a historical perspective and look at racial riots in America. We do have comparable situations and that are much, much worse where whole communities of Black people were wiped off the map in America. They're worse than Ferguson. Even then we did not pathologies White America as we do with any disturbance like we saw in Baltimore or Ferguson. That is the bigger problem. Then we take that pathology and say, well, how many single fathers, and let's talk about hard truths. How many fathers are not in the home? How many kids born to single parents? Well, if you look at the history of rioting and racial violence in this country, it was happening, a lot of it, when two parents in the household was the norm.
BLOW: These people were going home to wife and kids after terrorizing people in the street. Had nothing to do with whether or not the father was in the home or not. And a lot of times, in the case of lynching's, they were bringing the wife and kids out to see what they had done...
HOUCK: Back to the '40s and '30s and '20s, way before that...
BLOW: Right, because... (CROSSTALKS)
BALDWIN: Because... (CROSSTALKS)
HOUCK: This is a clue. (CROSSTALKS)
BLOW: A historical... (CROSSTALKS)
HOUCK: Blind and historical beliefs are not something that I aspire to. (CROSSTALKS)
BLOW: If you want to...
BALDWIN: Guys, guys, guys, please. (CROSSTALKS)
HOUCK: Savagery that existed in American history...
BLOW: There is no savagery.
BALDWIN: Wait. One voice, gentlemen. One voice.
KOHN: The pathology is...
BALDWIN: Hang on. One voice, please.
KOHN: The pathology, Harry is right, we shouldn't compare Waco in Baltimore. In Baltimore, one young man of killed by the police. The community at worst, not the entire community, was hurting property. In Waco, seven people were murdered. The nature of the response, the police response, media response, the severity and anthologizing of the Black community in Baltimore is way out of proportion with the nature of the crime. That is...
BLOW: Let's talk about the present day. White people do riot, too. They just do it around sports events and festivals rather than around social just issues. We don't pathologies the...
KOHN: Don't call them riot. (CROSSTALK)
BLOW: We don't call them riots. I've seen riots where - college riots. College bowl games.
KOHN: Nobody gets shot by the police. (CROSSTALK) HOUCK: Exactly. (CROSSTALK)
BLOW: Maybe because they don't get shot because nobody pull ace gun. (CROSSTALK)
BALDWIN: Where do we go? Where do we go? (CROSSTALK)
BLOW: I don't know where we go with this. (CROSSTALK)
HOUCK: You don't want to deal with history... (CROSSTALK)
BALDWIN: History is significant. (CROSSTALK)
HOUCK: Everybody has got to stop and move on from here. Forget the past. Forget... (CROSSTALK)
BALDWIN: Yes. (CROSSTALK)
BLOW: That's not even a smart thing to say. (CROSSTALK)
BALDWIN: In six cities, you cannot forget the past. You cannot forget the history. So much of that. Covering and being in Baltimore for one week talking to a lot of young people and these communities, your point, part of this narrative is listening to young people, hearing about how they are looking black role models, they are lacking fathers. Something I heard over and over. And how easy it is to sell drugs on the corner. How this continues to perpetuate.
HOUCK: Whose fault is that? (CROSSTALK)
BALDWIN: At the same time, you have the coverage around - coverage around Waco (CROSSTALK)
BLOW: From the sociological Perspective that falls into your - rhetoric that you spew Regarding this stuff... (CROSSTALK)
BALDWIN: Listen, if are you blaming... (CROSSTALK)
HOUCK: Not at all. That is part of the pathology. (CROSSTALK)
BALDWIN: Let's get back - hang on. Let's go back to your point. You're right, where do we go From here?