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Conflicting Stories in Ferguson Police Shooting of Teen; Wreaths Laid at Robin Williams' Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame; James Lipton Discusses Williams and His Influence

Aired August 12, 2014 - 12:30   ET



ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: The police chief in Ferguson, Missouri, says he's going to delay the release of the name of that officer who was behind the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. He told CNN it is because of the threats and concern for the officer's safety.

So what exactly led up to Saturday's shooting of that unarmed teenager? The police say Brown was going after the officer's gun. A friend who was with Michael Brown says something very different. We're going to play both accounts of the story. Take a look.


DORIAN JOHNSON, WITNESSED KILLING OF MICHAEL BROWN: Me and my friend, we was walking down the street, in the middle of the street, and we wasn't causing any harm to nobody.

We had no weapons on us at all. We just walking, having a conversation. No cars were blowing at us or honking at us like we were holding up traffic.

A police officer squad car pulled up. When he pulled up, these were his exact words. He said, get the "F" on the sidewalk. We told the officer we was not but a minute away from my destination and we would surely be off the street.

We was having a conversation. He went about his way for about one or two seconds as we continued to walk. He reversed his truck, his car, and in a manner to where it almost hit us. And it blocked both lanes off, the way he turned his car.

So he pulled up on the side us. He tried to brush his door open but we were so close to it that it ricocheted off of us and it bounced back to him. I guess that, you know, got him a little upset, and at that time, he reached out the window. He didn't get out the car. He just reached his arm out the window and grabbed my friend around his neck and was trying -- as he was trying to choke my friend.

And he was trying to get away. And the officer then reached out. He grabbed his arm to pull him into the car. That was like the officer pulling him inside the car. He's trying to pull him away. At no time the officer said that he was going to do anything until he pulled out his weapon. His weapon was drawn. And he said, I'll shoot you, or I'm going to shoot.

And the same moment, the first shot went off. And we looked at him. He was shot. There was blood coming from him. We took off running. As we took off running, I ducked and hit for my life because I was fear for my life and I head by the first -- I saw. My friend, he kept running. He told me to keep running because he feared for me too. So as he was running, the officer was trying to get out of the car.

Once he got out the car, he pursued my friend, but his weapon was drawn. Now, he didn't see any weapons drawn at him or anything like that, us going for no weapon. His weapon was already drawn when he got out the car. He shot again.

Once my friend felt that shot, he turned around, he put his hands in the air and he started to get down, but the officer still approached with his weapon drawn, and he fired several more shots and my friend died.

CHIEF JON BELMAR, ST. LOUIS COUNTY POLICE: Yesterday, about noon, in the 2900 block of Canfield, a Ferguson police officer had an encounter with two individuals on the street.

In fact, one of those individuals at the time came in -- as the officer was exiting his police car, allegedly pushed the police officer back into the car, where he physically assaulted the police officer.

It is our understanding at this point in the investigation that within the police car there was a struggle over the officer's weapon. There was at least one shot fired within the car.

After that, the officer went back -- came back out of the car. He exited his vehicle, and there was a shooting that occurred where the officer, in fact, shot the subject, and the subject -- they were fatal injuries.

The entire scene from approximately the car door to the shooting is about 35 feet. There were shell casings recovered. The shell casings are all matched to one weapon. That's the officer's weapon.

There were more than a few shell casings recovered. I cannot say at this time how many timings the subject was struck by gunfire. It's hard to know. It was more than a couple. but I don't think it was many more than that.


BANFIELD: We should point out that Dorian Johnson, the young man who you heard prior to the police account, the lawyer for that young man says that police have not interviewed him yet, which is intriguing.

So who's right and who's wrong, and where is that gray area between? Joining me now, Mark O'Mara, CNN analyst and criminal defense attorney in Orlando, and CNN attorney Mark Geragos in Los Angeles.

You've already released an op-ed, in terms of your experience, there are so many shades of what happened in the Trayvon Martin shooting early on. There seemed to be some things being replicated, a lot of differences as well.

First and foremost, why is Dorian Johnson not interviewed already by the police? Does that make any sense?

MARK O'MARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It makes no sense at all. I'm surprised that still hasn't happened yesterday, because of all the law enforcement agencies involved, both the local police and FBI would want to get to one of the eyewitnesses, all of the eyewitnesses as soon as possible.

One, it helps the foundation of their valuation of the case. Also they want to get to those witnesses before those witnesses hear other stories and tend to, then, coalesce the stories they might tell. It is absurd and it's many proper to not talk to the eyewitnesses as quickly as possible.

BANFIELD: Mark, eyewitness accounts are one thing. We have seen countless cases where they can be the linchpin of the case and where they can be completely wrong, especially when there's that old expression someone might have a dog in the fight.

In this particular story, so far, all we know is that there is this friend of the deceased and there are the police, diametrically opposed, both with dogs in the fight.

How tough is this case going to be?

O'MARA: This Mark would say that the forensics --

BANFIELD: I'm sorry, I met Mark Geragos. I just realized I have two Marks on the screen. Go ahead, Mark Geragos.

MARK GERAGOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Look, this case is only tough because it's what generally happens when you have a police shooting.

You know, what you didn't mention is they're not releasing the name of the police officer. I don't technically think that's fair. I don't think this idea that somehow they're going to expose him to threats on social media carries much water.

This generally what happens, when the police investigate, the police rally around their own officer, and that's what happens.

One of the reasons that this person, the witness that you just showed, hasn't been interviewed yet is, my guess, the police don't like what he's saying. He's already out there in the media.

And the Department of Justice, unfortunately, is generally the last on the scene in these kinds of things --

BANFIELD: Let me jump in --

GERAGOS: -- the police department who rallies around --

BANFIELD: Just for a moment, the two Marks, I absolutely want to get Mark O'Mara's response to that in a moment.

But, first, I just have to look over to Hollywood for a moment, because we have another breaking story, the death overnight of Robin Williams. You're seeing pictures now of what has been a wreath laying in Hollywood at Robin Williams' Walk of Fame -- the star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

And so the wreath was just laid a few moments ago. And Leron Gubler is the president of the Chamber of Commerce who did this and addressed the public.

LERON GUBLER, HOLLYWOOD CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: -- Hollywood chamber of commerce, here today to install a commemorate wreath in memory of Robin Williams on behalf of the Hollywood Historic Press and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

Robin Williams received his star on the walk of fame December 12th, 1990, 24 years ago. I've been in Hollywood 22 years so I never had the opportunity to meet Robin or to get acquainted with him, but I think I could say, as so many of us here today, that we all feel we knew him.

For many of us, it was almost like growing up with Robin Williams, starting with "Mork & Mindy," then going through all the many wonderful movies he was in. We all have our favorites, whether it was "Mrs. Doubtfire," "Popeye," "Good Will Hunting," you could go on and on, "Night at the Museum." he was an amazing talent.

I think what makes it so sad today is the sense of loss that we feel at losing him because there will never be another Robin Williams. He was one of a kind. He's touched all of our lives.

And so on that note, I'll write a short commemorative note from the chamber, and thank you all for coming.

BANFIELD: I'm joined live on the telephone by the host of "Inside the Actors Studio," James Lipton.

I'm not sure if you were able to hear that commemoration. I've seen you interview Robin Williams, and I think you have some remarkable insight into the kind of talent we've all just lost.

No matter who I speak to, no matter how many people I overhear talking about this news, everyone seems to feel the same way no matter how old they are, no matter how young they are. No matter their demographic. Everyone feels like we've been robbed.

JAMES LIPTON, HOST, "INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO" (via telephone): We have. Someone has been taken away from us. It's always a tragedy when someone goes and when we feel a sense of loss

There are a few people who are so exceptional, who have given us so much, so generously, of themselves, that we feel something which is beyond a sense of loss, beyond a -- beyond even the tragedy of the moment.

We have lost a part of ourselves, which is what he became. Great actors reach inside themselves and they take out something which is so personal, so real, so authentic, so deeply felt, that it leaps off the screen or off the stake and we feel it too.

People speak of knowing him. With Robin, you somehow felt him. You felt him. He was there for you in a way that no one else was.

Not a member of your family, not a loved one, not a great star or a great icon, he was a part -- he became a part of you, because of the authenticity of his work, both as a comedian and as an actor.

Other people have made that leap from one to the other, but he did it with such --

BANFIELD: And you know, James, the one thing I think a lot of people are trying to wrap their heads around, there are some celebrities who are on a path of destruction, where, you know, news of any kind of crisis might not come as a surprise.

But with Robin Williams, it was no secret he had his illnesses, but he seemed to be so candid and so methodical about treating them, almost as if to suggest we were all safe, that he was going to be OK.

LIPTON: You know what he said to me on my show, we were talking about his drug problem. He had been very open and frank about it on "Inside the Actors Studio."

Ad when I asked him about it, he said, for me, the greatest drug of all is creation, because you can create; you get the same kick, because evolutionary-wise, your brain gives you feedback when you create, you get a little endorphin buzz.

He spoke about how he had conquered his demons, and he said it was great to have -- unfortunately, there was still within him a torment that he kept from us. One of the greatest gifts he gave us I think was to spare us his suffering and to give us his joy. That takes a lot out of you when you do that.

BANFIELD: I'll bet.

LIPTON: You are bottling up, keeping things inside yourself, in order to spare other people your torment. In the end, the one person he would not spare was himself.

BANFIELD: That's almost embodied in a question you asked him. I'm living and breathing it through the memory of your question, when you said, if heaven exists, what would you like god to say when you arrive at the pearly gates? Do you remember asking him that?

LIPTON: I do. I remember his answer. I'll never forget it as long as I live. He said, he wanted to hear God say, there's seating near the front. The concert begins at 5:00. It will be Mozart, Edelweiss or one of your choosing. Just to know there is laughter. Just to hear God say, two Jews walked into a bar ...

BANFIELD: How do you know that verbatim? You didn't skip a beat. LIPTON: Well, because he's indelible, isn't he? We forget nothing. And

I can tell you one thing, I believe at this moment that if heaven exists, god is laughing very, very hard. We cry and god laughs.

BANFIELD: You know, I look at comedians today, Jon Stewart, Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Fallon, and I wonder how much of those -- how much of their talent is derived from him. He just -- he was so pervasive through all our lives in such a great way, how can they not have somehow fomented what they were?

LIPTON: I think he influenced a great many people. He influenced a great many. He influenced everybody who cape after him. And he himself was greatly influenced by Jonathan Winters, who was someone who is largely forgotten today by young people, but Winters was the same kind of improvisational genius. And his life was an improvisation. I worked with Johnny many times, Jonathan Winters, on "The Bob Hope Show" and he could do that too. Both he and Robin were able to take anything, any moment, any word that you said, and turn it into the most hilarious comedy. That is a great, great gift and he inherited that from Jonathan Winters and he passed it on to others.

The improvisational skill is probably inborn. I don't think it can -- it can be honed, but it can't be -- it can be taught only to a certain extent, then genius takes over. And in Robin's case, there was always, always that genius. And always now we know, always that tormented person. The two lived side by side. In the end, the tormented person was predominant, to put it as mildly and as politely as I can.

And -- but the other person, the person who could go anywhere, do anything, say anything and make it -- turn it into something that would make us better, make us happier, make us scream with laughter, that side of him was what he presented to the world. That side of him is what he gave us. It was an enormous gift and it turns out that it was at an enormous cost.

BANFIELD: I'm going to end this interview the same way I began it, saying that we've been robbed, we've been robbed of a remarkable soul. It doesn't matter how old you are, everybody seems to have a feeling, a thought and a heartache over the loss of Robin Williams, age 63, and certainly gone too soon.

James Lipton, thank you, sir.

LIPTON: Thank you very much.


BANFIELD: Friends of Michael Brown say that he was different. That everyone else wanted to be a football player or a basketball player but not Michael Brown. One his friends says that he wanted to own his own business. And today, Michael Brown would be on day two of college, working towards that goal, had he not been killed by a policeman's bullet. Susan Candiotti looks at who he was and who he hoped to be.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michael Brown, a big kid with a big grin who his family says hated violence.

MICHAEL BROWN SR., FATHER: He was the best son we ever had.

LESLEY MCSPADDEN, MOTHER: Oh, Lord, Lord, Lord, Lord.

BROWN: He was funny, silly, he'd make you laugh. Any problems that were going on or any situation, there wasn't nothing that he couldn't solve.

CANDIOTTI: Which is why family and friends cannot fathom what caused a police officer to shoot and kill him in broad daylight over the weekend.

MCSPADDEN: He just graduated, on his way to college. We can't even celebrate. We got to plan a funeral.

CANDIOTTI: Just a credit shy of graduating high school in May, he earned his diploma August 1st, setting his sights on a heating and cooling engineering degree.

BENJAMIN CRUMP, BROWN FAMILY ATTORNEY: He knew what he wanted to do at 18 years old. And all that promise gone.

CANDIOTTI: On Facebook, a list of Brown's favorite things. Football, the St. Louis Rams, games, Candy Crush Saga, music, Kanye West, movies, comedies, "House Party," "Madea," "Scary Movie 2." One friend posting his personal memories on Facebook, calling Brown funny, someone you could trust.

HERSHEL JOHNSON, FRIEND: He was like a best friend and a brother to me. He was always there for anybody that he knew. You know, I want to cry right now but, you know, I'm trying to keep myself together.

CANDIOTTI: And difficult too for his family.

MCSPADDEN: He didn't deserve this.

CANDIOTTI: Last week, her son posting a now prophetic Facebook message to a friend. "If I leave this earth today," he wrote, "at least you'll know I care about others more than I cared about my damn self." His dad put it this way.

BROWN: He's brings people back together.

CANDIOTTI: What his family wants now, calm, as they wait for answers.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, New York.



BANFIELD: Robin Williams' talent could barely be contained in the confines of a normal human body. A fact observed by pretty much everyone who ever saw him perform, whether it was on the stage or on TV or on the silver screen. Here, now, a look at that manic energy and the inimitable genius.


ROBIN WILLIAMS, ACTOR, "GOOD MORNING VIETNAM" (1987): Good morning, Vietnam. Hey, this is not a test. This is rock 'n' roll. Time to rock it from the delta to the DMZ.

God it's hot in here. Oh, oh!

I know size can be daunting, but don't be afraid. I love you. I love you.

WILLIAMS, "MORK & MINDY" (1978): Mork calling Orson (ph). Come in, you boob tube-ness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that you, Mork.

WILLIAMS: Oh, yes, sir. Talk about your bad connections here.

WILLIAMS, "WEAPONS OF SELF DESTRUCTION" (2009): If I took LSD, I'd be talking to ever blade of grass like, sorry, sorry, sorry. To walk into a Major League Baseball stadium like shhh, shhh, shhh, shhh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In your face, camel cake.

WILLIAMS, "HOOK" (1991): In your ear, (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lying, crying, spying (INAUDIBLE) pig.

WILLIAMS: You lude (ph), crude, rude bag of peachu (ph) fu (ph) dude.

WILLIAMS, "PATCH ADAMS" (1998): Now you asked me if I had been practicing medicine. Well, if this means opening your door to those in need, those in pain, caring for them, listening to then, applying a cold cloth until a fever breaks. If this is practicing medicine, if this is treating a patient, then I am guilty as charged, sir.

You don't know about real loss because it only occurs when you love something more than you love yourself. I doubt you've ever dared to love anybody that much.

WILLIAMS, "THE DEAD POETS SOCIETY" (1989): If you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen. (INAUDIBLE). Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.


BANFIELD: Make your lives extraordinary. Robin Williams certainly did just that. And one hour from now, the Marine (ph) County sheriff's department is scheduled to have a live news conference to inform everyone about the investigation into Robin Williams' death. And CNN is going to bring you that live when it happens at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Thanks for watching, everyone. "Wolf" starts now.