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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Repeat of Interview with Missouri Governor Jay Nixon; Controversy Continues Over Teen Shooting; Crisis in Ukraine; Brown Family Accuses Police of Victim Blaming
Aired August 15, 2014 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Police here in Ferguson revealing this morning that Michael Brown was a robbery suspect. And then a few hours later, they admit that the officer who shot Brown did not know that at the time.
I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.
The national lead. Police say this is the Michael Brown that we had not seen before today. They released surveillance video of him allegedly ripping off a store the day he was killed, but a few hours later, the police say, hey, the officer who killed him had no clue he was a wanted man. Why are we suddenly hearing about this robbery six days later?
Also, police releasing the name of the white officer who pulled the trigger on Brown, just as protesters demanded. And the local cops in SWAT gear, they are no longer in charge or here in Ferguson, but this community, it seems a long way from moving on.
And the world lead. Ukrainian troops say they have destroyed part of what Kiev calls a Russian military convoy that crossed over their border. Was Vladimir Putin just testing the waters for a bigger invasion?
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD coming to you live from Ferguson, Missouri, where we finally know the name of that officer who shot and killed unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown on Saturday. His name is Darren Wilson. He's a white 28-year-old who has been on the force for six years.
And that's not the only bombshell the Ferguson police force dropped today. They also revealed Brown was suspected in a robbery just minutes before he was shot. Police waited six days, days filled with riots and some would say excessive police force to reveal surveillance video from inside a convenience store, which they claim shows Brown manhandling a clerk inside and stealing about 50 bucks worth of cigars.
But after releasing that information, police waited hours today to amend it with a very important detail that the officer who stopped and fatally shot Brown did not know he was a suspect.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THOMAS JACKSON, FERGUSON, MISSOURI, POLICE CHIEF: The initial contact between the officer and Mr. Brown was not related to the robbery.
QUESTION: At this point, why did he stop Michael Brown?
JACKSON: Because they were walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic. That was it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So the police are admitting the shooting literally had nothing to do with the robbery.
Let's take a step back. Here's how the stories line up or more accurately do not line up. The locations of the store robbery and the shooting, they're about a quarter of a mile apart right here in Ferguson. Police say the robbery call came in around 11:51 a.m. on Saturday.
Police say the suspect committed a strong-arm robbery. That's taking by force or with intimidation, no weapon involved. The description is then given, white T-shirt, long khaki shorts, red Cardinals baseball cop.
Now, just a few minutes later, about a quarter mile away from the robbery, right on Canfield Street, the next block over, officer Darren Wilson, who again was not searching for Brown as a suspect in the robbery, he confronts Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson for walking in the middle of Canfield Road. Police said this is the day after.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON BELMAR, SAINT LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI, POLICE CHIEF: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, at that point, police claim Brown tried to take officer Wilson's gun. And that's when at least one shot was fired inside the police car and then police say Brown tried to run. The officer pursued and fired again. But Brown's friend Johnson disputes that, saying the officer blocked their way with his car and then reached out the window, grabbed Brown's throat, tried to pull him inside the car.
It was at that point Johnson maintains that the officer shot Brown and then Brown tried to get away. Here's what Johnson and another witness say happened next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIFFANY MITCHELL, WITNESS: The officer gets out of his vehicle and pursues Michael as he's shooting his weapon. Michael jerks his body as if he was hit.
DORIAN JOHNSON, WITNESS: And at that time, he turned around with his hands up, beginning to tell the officer that he was unarmed and to tell him to stop shooting.
MITCHELL: And then he turns around, faces the officer and puts his hands up and the officer continues to shoot him until he goes down to the ground.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: You will hear from another witness later in this show, but, OK, what does the police report on the shooting say? We don't know because police have not released that report, only the one about with the strong-armed robbery, which, of course, they said had nothing to do with the shooting.
A deluge of information coming out in this case and not all of it adding up. Earlier today, I had a chance to talk with Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat who has taken a lot of heat about his response to the unrest here in Ferguson, as well as Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, whom the governor directed to take over security in Ferguson after days of disturbances.
TAPPER: I want to start with you, Governor.
A lot of angry members of the community angry about things having to do with beyond, far beyond this one incident and the protests and the militarized response of the police.
GOV. JAY NIXON (D), MISSOURI: I think there are two things.
Obviously, you have touched an old wound when you deal with issues like this. And we recognize that. We also recognize we want to keep the community safe while allowing those voices to be heard. And I think that Captain Johnson and team from the Missouri Highway Patrol did an outstanding job last night of clearly changing the tone, making it safer, but allowing those voices, which are appropriate in the situation, to be heard.
TAPPER: Captain Johnson, a lot of people in the community right now think that the release of this videotape, this closed-circuit television from the convenience store where Mike Brown, the late Mike Brown allegedly participated in a strong-armed robbery, I know you haven't see the video, but a lot of people in the community think there's something fishy about this, that they're trying to besmirch his reputation in the court of public opinion.
And they note that it happened at the same time that the officer's name was released. Do you understand why members of the community view the release of this information suspiciously?
CAPT. RON JOHNSON, MISSOURI STATE HIGHWAY PATROL: I do.
And I'm going to try to get a clear understanding on why that was released in that way. But I can't answer that right now. But when I leave here, I am going to meet with the chief and try to get a clear understanding of the dynamics of how that occurred. TAPPER: What is protocol for police if there are suspects wanted in a
JOHNSON: I can't speak of the protocol the Ferguson P.D. has in police.
Governor Nixon, I'm sure it's no surprise to you that a lot of members of the African-American community are not your biggest fans. It goes back, as far as I can tell, to '92, when you campaigned against desegregation in the state. Do you think that you have work to do when it comes to talking and conveying your appreciation of their frustrations with the African-American community in the state?
NIXON: Well, we have all got work to do as a society. It's not just about me or any -- I mean, as a society, as we see from this -- there are protests going on all around the country, all around the world for what's happened here in Ferguson.
This is a large chasm that needs to be joined. And I prefer not to personalize it. I got a lot of great friends in these areas. We have made a lot of progress. And I quite frankly think that the operational changes that I ordered yesterday had a big effect last night at getting both safety and peace. And we are going to continue to work to make sure that that stays the same.
TAPPER: There is a huge amount of criticism of how militarized police in this country have become post-9/11. I believe Missouri in the last few years has received $17 million worth of military goods, including mine-resistant trucks.
I don't know if you have them on the state Highway Patrol. But do you see a need for this kind of equipment?
JOHNSON: I don't know about the mine-resistant trucks. I do know that there are times when we have to use our armored vehicles with our SWAT teams to preserve lives. There are times when that is appropriate. But I think there's times when it's not appropriate.
NIXON: If you have got an active shooter, you have got to get there. And the folks got to be there safe. If you have got a bomb threat, you have to be able to meet that threat.
Clearly, in this situation, the captain has presented a much different front. And I think that front's very positive. But, like I say, we will review what assets are -- we're concerned about all these matters. We want to make sure there's trust with the police department.
TAPPER: But, still, Buchanan County has a mine-resistant truck. Do you have a lot of mines in Buchanan County?
NIXON: Like I said, I'm not going to say, other than -- I mean, when there are significant disasters, oftentimes at the larger level, they ask for mutual aid and cooperation. Like I said, we will have a good discussion about that long run. We'd
like to get to the end of the line on justice here. We would like to get these things completed, but we want a peaceful night tonight, where people can speak and their property is going to be protected.
TAPPER: I came here a few days after I was in the Palestinian territories in Israel. And I brought the same bag with a gas mask and a helmet and Kevlar because of the scenes I saw on the street and because of the rubber bullet wounds I saw of innocent people that were protesting peacefully. Does that embarrass you, the scenes that were on the television?
NIXON: We all saw those scenes. And they looked like a war scene. And that's one of the reasons why as we saw that escalation, I made a strategic and kind of relatively unique decision to move the way I did, to shift the control of the security on the ground here to the Highway Patrol, and the colonel assigned a great local leader here to lead that.
I saw what everybody else saw. And I didn't like it. And we don't want to see it again. Our hope -- but that's a two-way street. That's not just the folks from law enforcement. That's the folks in the community. So this officer is working with his team to make sure those bonds are such that those options aren't even on anybody's table.
TAPPER: Captain Johnson, are African-Americans treated fairly in the state by the police?
JOHNSON: I believe our citizens are treated fairly, but I also believe that we don't live in a perfect state.
We could be here and there could be -- citizens from other races could say, you know, I haven't been treated fairly. But any individual that has not being treated fairly is an issue. And so it's not our intent that means anything. It's our actions and any outcome.
And so I think that we have a great state. But I do think some people have that feeling that they have been done wrong and something's gone wrong. We need to fix that. And we need to make sure everybody has that understanding and that training so we're treating everybody correctly.
TAPPER: Are African-Americans treats fairly by police?
NIXON: We work very hard to try to make sure that happens. But there are folks, as the captain said, of all races that have had incidents, which, if we had to do over, you wouldn't do.
But, clearly, when you are have an incident of this size and it stirs this kind of reaction, then clearly there is a deeper wound than just the tragedy of the death of this young man. And so getting to that in the longer term is something I think we all recognize that wound and the need to heal it.
TAPPER: Tell us about the thought process about releasing the name of the officer. Was there a legal obligation to do that or was that done because the community demanded it?
NIXON: It was not my decision. I said a number of days ago that I thought that that information should be out. I'm not going to -- there's no real reason for me to comment on that. It wasn't my decision.
TAPPER: Do you have any concerns that with the release of the officer's name, as some of his supporters and some members of the Ferguson police have expressed, that there is reason the his life might be in jeopardy or at least threatened?
NIXON: We have said all along that there should be security around this as we move forward for everybody, not just -- all the families and everybody directly involved. So security is something we're working on.
Yes, there clearly could be some challenges there. But the bottom line is that this information is now out. That's one step. And we will move forward from there. The defined mission here is to make sure that the person on the ground here with his team is communicating directly, allowing people to speak, but keeping the peace right here in Ferguson.
TAPPER: Captain, I saw you approaching some of the some of the young men wearing bandanas on the street yesterday. What did you tell them?
JOHNSON: Well, walking behind them, I could hear their anger. And I kind of went over to talk to them and just have some discussion with them and really ask to give us a chance and to let them know that I have got a son that looks just like them.
Many of them talked about that they had tattoos and things like that. And I told them my son has some tattoos. So, I said, my son is just like you. And I said, give us a chance. And I said, you know, there's a new day coming. There's going to be some honest interaction with you. And I said I just didn't want to walk past them. I walked over to them because I wanted to hear what they had to say.
I may have not liked it. It may not have been positive, but I thought I needed to go over and hear what they had to say, just to let them know that I do respect them and respect their voice.
TAPPER: I went to the Canfield Green apartment complex yesterday and I met a man who said he was an eyewitness to the event. He told me his whole story. Police haven't contacted him.
Are you confident that this investigation is being done as thoroughly as it needs to be?
NIXON: Well, there are two separate investigations going on. The Justice Department is doing its investigation and the local prosecutor is doing theirs. I will defer any questions to them, other than to say that I have told everyone that that needs to be a full, fair investigation that seeks out all information that is relevant to this, so that justice can be served in this matter.
And that would be a better question to those folks that are running that.
TAPPER: But I'm just telling you that five days after the shooting, I met somebody who says he was an eyewitness and police have not contacted him. As governor, don't you have any concerns that maybe this investigation isn't being done as thoroughly as it needs to be done?
NIXON: There are lots of folks on your Rolodex you can call and talk about that that are actually involved in the day-to-day and the hour- to-hour work there.
In my view, I say that all the relevant witnesses obviously need to be -- have the opportunity to speak, and that between the Justice Department and the local prosecutor, you know, they will be working hard over the next days and however long it takes to get all -- to reach out in that way.
I know that most of those folks have said that they would hope that if folks have something to say that they reach out to the relative law enforcement agency so they know they're available for interviews.
TAPPER: Last question for Captain Johnson. I'm wondering, what's your message to people in Ferguson who think the Ferguson police are not capable of conducting a thorough and fair investigation of what happened?
JOHNSON: Well, the Ferguson Police Department is not conducting an investigation.
JOHNSON: Saint Louis County and the FBI are doing that investigation. They work parallel and they will look at both cases. And so...
TAPPER: All right, same question, Saint Louis County. They're not -- what's your message to people in Ferguson who say Saint Louis County is not capable of doing this investigation thoroughly?
JOHNSON: Saint Louis County has a lot of fine women and men on their police department, a lot of fine investigators.
And like the governor talked about, anybody that is a witness, you can contact them. And if you are a witness and you haven't been in contact, if you see me, give me your name and number and I will make sure you're put in contact with them. And I will make sure somebody approaches you and gets your name and gets you in touch with the right person. I will do that.
TAPPER: Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and then Governor Jay Nixon, thank you so much for your time.
TAPPER: Coming up next on THE LEAD: character assassination. That's at least what the family of Mike Brown is accusing the Ferguson police of after the department released this video of him allegedly robbing a convenience store the day of his death. What his family knew about that crime and when.
Plus, will the careful calm of today hold in the wake of explosive new details from the Ferguson police? We'll meet the man who is trying to keep the peace.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD, live from Ferguson, Missouri. I'm Jake Tapper.
After nearly a week of protests and pleading, today, the Ferguson police chief finally released the name of the officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager last Saturday. And along with that name, accusations came that Michael Brown was the suspect in a convenience store robbery that took place before the shooting.
But what police here in Ferguson call transparency is being labeled nothing short of character assassination by Brown's family. The family released a statement through their attorney earlier today which reads in part, quote, "There is nothing based on the facts that have been placed before us that can be justify the execution style murder of their child by this police officer as he held his hands up which is the universal sign of surrender", unquote.
Joining me now live from Tallahassee, Florida, is Brown family attorney Benjamin Crump.
Mr. Crump, thanks for joining us.
We just learned from the Ferguson police chief that the officer responding to the scene did not know that Michael Brown was the suspect in the robbery when he stopped him.
What do you make of the police releasing this video in the morning and then, a few hours later saying, oh, it turns out that's not necessarily directly relevant to the shooting at all? What do you think of that?
BENJAMIN CRUMP, BROWN FAMILY ATTORNEY: Jake, it's nothing but police 101 when it comes to police shootings where they shoot innocent people.
You know, I've done almost hundreds of these type of cases. It is the same strategy every time, Jake. Attack the victim, assassinate the character and try to justify the actions. But it cannot be justified, Jake -- the execution style murder of this kid in broad daylight.
It's so irrelevant. The two have nothing to do with one another. And we're going to make people stay focused on what this case is really about. Where's the report about the murder?
TAPPER: The family had asked for transparency in this case. Obviously, there's a lot more. We still don't know, including the police report from that night. Isn't it part of transparency to learn everything that one can about and the events that led up to that horrible day? Wouldn't the release of the video be part of that have at least theoretically?
CRUMP: Yes, but do it in this devious manner in a piecemeal fashion, where it's almost strategic to try to carry the opinion of the public to say it's justified, when you know one has nothing to do with the other. And as you stated, it was riveting to hear the police chief have to tell the truth that the officer knew nothing about what allegedly happened in the convenience store 15 minutes ago.
And so, that's what's troubling. That's why so many people have such distrust for the local law enforcement agencies and they are really concerned whether Michael Brown's family is going to get justice.
TAPPER: It's certainly information that should have been provided at the same time as the release of the video. It's hard to come to any other conclusion than that.
Mr. Crump, did the family know about the surveillance video before it was released this morning?
CRUMP: They did not. And his parents were very upset because they are saying, well, why don't you tell us what happened when you killed my child when you shot him multiple times in the middle of the street? You mean, you're spending all your resources and money on trying to demonize him but you're not telling us answers that not only Ferguson but America wants to know so we can start the healing process of why an unarmed teenager was shot down like a dog in the street.
TAPPER: Have the police.
CRUMP: Another thing, Jake --
TAPPER: Have the police reached out and also offered any explanation?
CRUMP: You know it, after we reached out to them, they then came and talked to us, but they did not offer any of this information. And so, you know, transparent is going to be so important. But you release everything, not just character assassination to try to justify this execution.
Remember, Jake, all the witnesses say he put his hands up, was kneeling down in the surrendering position and the police officer kept shooting. And I think it is very important that we focus on the scientific evidence that's going to come out. And that is going to be the ballistics report and the trajectory of the bullets that show this kid was executed. And there's no justification for that.
What, whether he took some cigarettes or not is justification for executing him? Not the most hardened criminals we execute when they surrender, and that's what he did. He put his hands up and he kept shooting.
TAPPER: I hate to the ask this question because obviously, according to the police chief himself, it's not relevant to the shooting. But is that Michael on the tape? CRUMP: Well, it appears to be. And we certainly want all the
information to come out, Jake. We are not trying to hide anything because we know at the end of the day, there is nothing that Michael Brown Jr. could have done to deserve to be executed in this manner by this police officer in broad daylight when it was clear he was surrendering, he had no weapon, and yet, he kept shooting.
I don't know how many times the family can say it, the neighbors, the witnesses can say it. He put his hands up and the police kept shooting. That's why people are so emotionally charged about this. Because they're saying, he has to be held accountable. If he's not held accountable, then the next time something like this happens, we just can't even turn to our police authorities for any kind of justice.
TAPPER: And in fact, we have another witness who is going to talk about this later in the show.
One last question, Mr. Crump. Are we going to hear from the Brown family anytime soon?
CRUMP: Well, the family's very distraught. In fact, his mother is receiving some counseling because she's so in disbelief over what happened. But we are trying to find out if she's going to be up to at least of answering a question or making any statement.
TAPPER: Benjamin Crump, thank you so much. And, of course, our deepest condolences go out to the Brown family. Thank you so much.
Coming up next on THE LEAD, new details on the officer who fired the gun that killed Mike Brown. What has he told investigators so far? New information coming out as the community here lashes out at police for what some call a smear campaign against Mike Brown. Will the controlled chaos from last erupt in violence once again?