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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Urgent Warnings about ISIS Terror Attacks; Report: "Laptop Of Doom" Shows Plans For ISIS Attacks; Ferguson Protesters File $40M Suit Against Police; Joan Rivers in "Serious Condition"
Aired August 29, 2014 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, a dire warning, ISIS forcing the U.K. to raise its terror alert. Is the United States homeland at risk too?
Plus some terrifying documents found in what's being called ISIS' "Laptop of Doom." Manuals on building bombs and spreading the Bubonic plague.
And two Ferguson area police officers off the force tonight. The actions during the Michael Brown protests that landed them in hot water. Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening. I'm Ashleigh Banfield and I'm in for Erin Burnett tonight. And OUTFRONT, an urgent new terror alert. Fear of an attack coming from ISIS is causing the British government to raise its terror threat level from substantial to severe.
According to government officials there, quote, "That means that the terrorist attack is highly likely. As you may recall, the man that was seen and heard in that horrible ISIS video standing over American journalist, James Foley, before and after he was beheaded, that man spoke with a British accent.
Our Karl Penhaul is in London tonight. Karl, this threat was serious enough for the British prime minister himself took to the air waves. Talk a little bit more about the significance of that.
KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ashleigh, in fact, this is the highest threat level that there has been in Britain for the last three years and Mr. David Cameron, the British prime minister said that Britain was now locked in a generational battle against radical Islam, a battle that could take years, could even take decades.
He said that the real threat right now although he said that he didn't have in specific intelligence that a threat was imminent. He said that it was highly likely that one or several of these 500 or more British Jihadists who have headed off to fight in Syria or Iraq for ISIS could return home at any time and unleash terror threats on British soil.
And so he said very firmly we have to fight that threat in the Middle East. He said but we have also got to fight it on the home front in Britain as well. So what he is proposing and he is going to put some of these proposals to parliament next week are measures like withdrawing British passports from British nationals who have traveled to combat zones.
And pulling their passports when they get home. He is also considering putting travel bans in place to stop young Britons from going to these conflict areas in the first place.
And in the short term, what we are likely to see here in Britain is an upsurge in police presence both in train stations and airports and also on the streets. We are very likely to see police patrolling with guns and that is not something we are not used to seeing here in Britain -- Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: Pulling passports and travel bans, that's some pretty strong stuff. Karl Penhaul live in London. Hold that thought for a moment. Live to the Pentagon now where Barbara Starr is standing by.
Barbara, the United States and the U.K. are the closest allies. And all eyes seemed to be on America right now and its response to what's happening. What are you learning?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ashleigh, I think the question in Washington all day was, why London, why are they so concerned when Washington is not. U.S. officials saying they have no information, no intelligence that there is some imminent, credible attack being planned here in the U.S. homeland, Britain very concerned.
As Karl pointed out, they have about 500 Britons, who have travelled to the war zone. Here in the United States, it's about a hundred, maybe a dozen or so who have followed the ISIS path.
U.S. law enforcement and counterterrorism officials say they are tracking those people. They feel they have the measures in place with aviation security and other transportation measures pretty much in place that they can keep track of people and put them on watch lists and know where they are, but they are cautious.
It's not iron clad. So you know, this is something that is a growing threat, but the focus in the United States right now seems to be from the administration to do what it can, which isn't much so far, to figure out how to fight ISIS overseas especially in its strongholds in Syria.
BANFIELD: Not without your insistent questioning at the Pentagon. I watched you today as you were questioning the rear admiral, who is the press secretary for the Pentagon, about what the president said yesterday in terms of not having a specific strategy for action inside Syria.
Take me from there and tell me what you got out of the Pentagon with regard to how America plans to deal with this.
STARR: Well, you sort of have to ask yourself, you know, are we really saying that there is no strategy that the United States military could not respond at this point if, God forbid, there was an ISIS attack against the United States either the homeland or abroad. And of course, that's not the case, the U.S. military is always ready. So do they have a strategy or plans or options? Whatever you call it, we asked about this. We really pressed. Where are you in the planning? And if the president doesn't have what he needs, what is taking so long? And here's the answer we got.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Planning is an iterative process, Barb. It's not like -- you know, the question assumes this is some sort of binary thing where we are ordered to do it and here's the binder and it's -- there you go. It's turned in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STARR: So look, Admiral Kirby, would be the first to tell you the U.S. military, and he did say, the U.S. military is ready to go. The issue right now remains what does the president want to do? What strategy does he want? Does he want to deter?
Does he want to degrade or defeat ISIS? What is the strategy and how do you match that up with the options and the targeting that the Pentagon is doing that crucial target planning if and when the president makes that decision to go for the military option -- Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon for us tonight. Thank you for that. And joining me now, CNN global affairs analyst, Kimberly Dozier along with former State Department spokesman in the Obama administration, P.J. Crowley, and CNN military analyst, Colonel Peter Mansoor, who served as the executive officer to General David Petraeus during the surge in Iraq.
And Colonel, if I can begin with you. Look, I have been a war correspondent and I've heard the administration say, we have no boots on the ground. I have witnessed American boots on a ground where I actually had heard they weren't.
So my question to you is do you suspect that the Americans right now have some kind of presence inside Syria, be it spec ops or perhaps intelligence gathering?
COLONEL PETER MANSOOR (RETIRED), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, certainly there are no uniformed service members on the ground in Syria. Whether the CIA has operatives there is an open question. If they don't they are certainly trying to get operatives into Syria or co-opt people who are already there.
But ISIS is a very, very difficult kind of organization to penetrate. Very difficult even if you don't penetrate it for someone to get information back that is timely. So this is a real problem, intelligence on the ground in Syria on this very difficult target.
BANFIELD: But do you suspect we perhaps have someone there now?
MANSOOR: My guess is the CIA has some sources and the question is how good are they? And whether is that enough? And my guess is that the answer is no.
BANFIELD: OK, Kimberly, the Americans chased al Qaeda for I dare say a decade and a half all the way to the Pakistan border but did not cross it. What makes this any different? We are effectively working inside Iraq, but stopping at the Syrian border. Do you see this as a big difference?
KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Just to jump in on the earlier conversation through my own reporting I have found that, yes, the CIA does occasionally send small teams of people into Syria.
They meet with some of their contacts and then they leave. They are mostly relying on signals intelligence, that's drones in the sky or technical means they leave behind and on also, partner intelligence services, friendly intelligence services in the region just like they did in Pakistan.
So while we have no boots on the ground as the military would put it, we do have U.S. operatives going in and out. Now the question is, what does the White House want to do with those operatives?
So far it's put forward a plan that would start next year to arm the Syrian opposition. That opposition that we vet. But in the near term what has to be decided is what do you go after?
The Pentagon can make a range of options here, but do you go after just ISIS? Do you go after ISIS and Al Nusra? Do you go after the leadership structure or do you just go after the killers of American journalist, James Foley? That's what the Pentagon needs to know before it moves forward.
BANFIELD: And P.J., just to ducktail off of that and talk about -- when Kimberly says "go after" how much respect should or would be paid to the Syrian border?
Pakistan is a whole different kettle of fish. We have a diplomatic relationship with Pakistan. I dare say we don't have a diplomatic relationship with Syria. So how does that change the metric?
P.J. CROWLEY, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Well, first of all, to correct something we were very involved inside Pakistan for a number of years because we have a relationship with that country both military and political. The same is true of Iraq.
We -- the United States has been invited to support the Iraqi government and is doing so. Syria is not a permissive environment and the key difference is that the Assad government is not part of the solution. It's part of the problem. It is part of what has enabled is to grow to the force, you know, that it is.
But, you know, whatever we decide to do is based on that definition of the mission, the most discrete thing would be to go after those responsible for the death of James Foley much like the United States went after Osama Bin Laden.
But what the president is wrestling with is, one, you have multiple conflicts and adversaries inside Syria. The Assad regime, ISIS and Hezbollah and others.
And the second is, you know, can you take effective action that improves the security of the United States without necessarily owning Syria and a solution in Syria as we did in Iraq.
BANFIELD: So with that mess in mind, Colonel Mansoor, Barbara Starr pressed as hard as she could to get some kind of answer about some packaged proposal that the Pentagon could deliver to the White House in terms of what to do about Syria.
With your background and your knowledge do you have any idea what that might constitute. What kind of action realistically be effected inside Syria?
MANSOOR: We break down strategy into ends, ways, and means. If the ends, in this case, is to defeat ISIS, which several administration officials have said that we need to defeat or destroy ISIS, then you look at how you're going to accomplish that? What are the ways?
And I think in this case it would be a conversional ground assault by the Iraqi Army and Kurdish Peshmerga. It would be an irregular warfare, a guerrilla warfare, by the Free Syrian Army. That moderate opposition that we are going to arm and train.
And perhaps a tribal rebellion by Sunni tribes on both sides of the border that we can perhaps reignite and then you look at the means to do that and it would be arming, training and equipping those forces.
Providing advisers and trainers and green berets on the ground to meet with these elements and call in air strikes and then it's a much- expanded air campaign on both sides of this non-existent border.
And I'll answer that question, we should pay no attention to the Iraqi-Syrian border. It does not exist in the areas that ISIS controls.
BANFIELD: Colonel Peter Mansoor, P.J. Crowley and Kimberly Dozier, thank you to all three of you. Your perspective is invaluable.
OUTFRONT next, the so-called "laptop of doom." What thousands of Jihadi documents on a laptop are telling us about the inner workings of ISIS?
Plus a man repeatedly tazed by police dies in their custody. After the Michael Brown shooting, now more questions about excessive police force.
And Joan Rivers in serious condition tonight. How did this firecracker of a comedian go from performing one day to landing in the hospital fighting for her life the very next?
BANFIELD: Tonight an urgent warning about ISIS terrorists. The U.K. has raised its threat alert to severe. Meaning an attack by the Islamist extremist group is, quote, "highly likely." And now a brand new look into what the terror group might be planning. Reporters from "Foreign Policy" magazine were able to gain access to a laptop that came from an ISIS hideout in Syria.
"Foreign Policy" is calling it the, "laptop of doom," end quote. Inside more than 35,000 files with details on carrying out a massive terror attack, specific instructions on how to develop biological weapons and how to spread the bubonic plague from infected animals.
ISIS says, quote, "use small grenades with the virus and throw them in closed areas like metros, soccer stadiums or entertainment centers."
OUTFRONT tonight, the journalist who accessed that laptop, Jenan Moussa. Jenan, thanks for joining us. First and foremost how did you get your hands on the laptop?
JENAN MOUSSA, "FOREIGN POLICY" CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you for having me. OK, here's how the story goes, the laptop I got it, me and my colleague, through a source. This source is a moderate tribal commander. He and his guys, they were attacking an ISIS safe house in the province of Idlib in North Syria.
At a town close to the Turkish border they attacked the ISIS safe house and they found, you know, a lot of belongings there to ISIS. Among them was this laptop. I knew about the laptop early in the year.
And I was able to convince the rebel commander to let me have a look at it and then to actually copy the contents of that laptop on the on a hard drive.
BANFIELD: And has anyone from the administrations in the U.K. or in the United States or elsewhere asked you to see the contents that you were able to copy?
MOUSSA: No. I have not been contacted by anyone by the administration, the U.K. or the U.S. to have a look at the content. What I have here is a hard drive, which is 146 gigabytes of material. It contains 35,000 files that is more than 35,000 miles and around two and a half thousand folders.
In it, there is a lot of documents, mainly Jihadist stuff, speeches of Bin Laden, videos of the owner of the laptop, of him and his friends in Tunisia because he is a Tunisian nation.
Before he went to Syria, there are a lot of speeches, a lot of Jihadi sermons and among them, pretty interesting documents including the documents, entitled biological weapons.
BANFIELD: And regarding what you found, I mean, there is a trove of information that the magazine has outlined. I mean, weaponizing the bubonic plague is just sort of, it is terrifying for the average reader to see that sort of thing. But generally speaking in overall what was the most alarming aspect of your find?
MOUSSA: The most alarming thing I would say is that document on the biological weapons. It's an Arabic document. It's a 19-page document. The title is in red, biological weapons and in it, they describe how to basically make biological weapons and how to make the bubonic plague and how to weaponize it.
They go in details about where you can get certain bacterias and how you can cultivate it in labs and how later you can transmit it into the human beings and animals first and then into human beings.
They say that the use of the advantages of biological weapons is it can kill a lot of people at a very low cost and they actually state three ways in which they would distribute biological weapons. They speak about distribution through air, through food, and through water.
BANFIELD: So let me ask you this because fairly so much of what is happening right now is military but also political. I wonder if you had the philosophical discussion about the credibility of the actual laptop itself given the fact that it was turned over to you from another rebel group that was fighting ISIS.
Because clearly this is the kind of thing that would make them very appealing to say the Americans or the U.K. and in terms of getting backing or getting help or getting money or getting some kind of assistance in the fighting of ISIS.
MOUSSA: I know the source and I have been in contact with him before. I am very positive about that the laptop belongs to ISIS. In addition to that, in the laptop we found exam papers of the owner of the laptop. The guy is from Tunisia.
The number of his identity card is written on one of the papers and it says in these papers that he studied chemistry and physics in Tunisia. We contacted one of his, my colleague and I contacted one of the universities and they confirmed that the guy studied there physics and chemistry.
And that he left in 2011 and they don't know where he went. The employee at the university told me out of the blue that you'll find his belongings in Syria. And indeed that was the destination where this guy eventually left to. And you know, joined ISIS to fight.
BANFIELD: It's a fascinating piece in your magazine. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us about it. Jenan Moussa, thanks.
MOUSSA: Thank you.
BANFIELD: And OUTFRONT tonight, CNN terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank. Paul, I'm sure you overheard much of the content of that interview. It's not as though we have not heard of these kinds of threats made before, these kinds of finds made before, laptops and hard drives, et cetera.
Specifically when it came from al Qaeda who's tried for about a decade and a half to carry out these kinds of biological attacks. But do you see ISIS as a different animal effectively with more money, recruiting and savvy? PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: The first thing to say, Ashleigh, is there is a big difference between aspiration and some research and any sort of capability to pull off an attack with chemical and biological weapons.
But while al Qaeda were experimenting with this sort of stuff far away from civilization, in places like Afghanistan in the 1990s, ISIS now controls urban areas in Iraq and Syria.
So may have some access to laboratories and hospitals and medical facilities. It's also attracting a lot of recruits from the Middle East, some with scientific backgrounds and it has a lot of money, tens of millions of dollars of cash reserves.
So in some respects, ISIS is a different creature, but most experts think it's a long, long way off from any sort of capability to weaponize biological and chemical agents.
BANFIELD: Paul, are you surprised at the reporter's answer when I said has any administration reached out to you be it U.K., U.S. or elsewhere to get a look at the goods and she said no?
CRUICKSHANK: I imagine she will be getting a phone call very soon.
BANFIELD: But they don't necessarily get access. I mean, reporters have to protect their sources and they are not readily willing to turn these kinds of things over.
CRUICKSHANK: Well, there is obviously one thing, protecting sources and another thing when they are quite specific things mentioned in these documents, that of course will be of interest to the United States and other intelligence agencies.
BANFIELD: What about all these other (inaudible) players that the reporter says she called the universities in Tunisia and actually got a response saying we know him. We lost contact with him and by the way, did you find these things in Syria. They seem to know something.
Does that mean now because of their work there is a whole new investigation to try to track down this chemically, you know, highly educated in physics owner of that laptop, be him dead or alive at this point?
CRUICKSHANK: This is just one ISIS fighter, who is a Tunisian guy, we understand. But someone who could have been doing the research on their own, not necessarily any sort of ISIS program here. And he got chemistry knowledge from studying at university. That is a long way off from being a chemical and biological weapons expert -- Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: And I want to dovetail on what you said that ISIS controls territory in a way that al Qaeda never did. They were hosted by the Taliban and didn't operate with complete freedom necessarily in all of the facilities, especially in Afghanistan but this is very different.
They were in control of Mosul. They did have access or you would assume they had access to the kinds of places where they could carry out some of this work, but still the work is not easy.
CRUICKSHANK: It's not easy for them to sort of get this kind of capability. Very difficult for non-state actors to launch a chem/bio attacks. We saw in Japan in the 1990s, the very well-funded group (inaudible) launched a worry of course, is that ISIS at a certain point could start acting more like a state actor if it can keep control of the strongholds and territory in Iraq and Syria -- Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: And yet, you are not seeing necessarily that even if they are behaving like a state actor they will have other state friends.
CRUICKSHANK: That's right.
BANFIELD: I mean, clearly, we have already heard Iran suggesting this is not the kind of player they want to be involved with. Paul Cruickshank, great to see you. Thank you for your time.
OUTFRONT next, a man in handcuffs is tazed by police up to 13 times and then dies in their custody. So are the officers to blame for his death?
And also an update on the Ferguson area police officer who is suspended for this, threatening protesters by pointing his rifle at them.
BANFIELD: Two Ferguson area police officers are off the force tonight following their actions during the protests of Michael Brown's shooting deaths. One officer was caught on tape threatening protesters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OFFICER: Hands up. I will (EXPLETIVE DELETED) kill you. Get back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: Lieutenant Ray Albers resigned after he was, quote, "suspended indefinitely" last week. The other officer, Matthew Pappert, was fired after posting controversial comments on Facebook like, comments like "protesters should be put down like a rabid dog." Pappert has apologized for his posts.
And we also learned today that five people who were arrested during the protests have filed a $40 million federal civil rights lawsuit accusing the Ferguson and St. Louis County police forces of excessive force.
Joining me now is criminal defense attorney and CNN legal analyst Danny Cevallos.
DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I read the complaint and one of the things it mentions right at the outset is the Michael Brown shooting, as sort of a context for the cause of action which, I certainly -- helps to set the stage but it doesn't do a whole lot to advance these individual plaintiff's claims against the defendants and here's why -- suing the government, suing the police is always a difficult proposition because of what we called qualified immunity. So, police officers are generally protected from their actions and Missouri courts have basically said in Missouri, the federal circuit court has held that qualified immunity will protect almost everyone but the plainly incompetent, because police officers are given this wide deference to make arrests.
And as long as they didn't do something that was clearly and plainly that was an error in judgment at the time, then they will be immune from suit. It is very, very difficult to sue the police for arrests or for things they do in their official capacity.
BANFIELD: Let's just say and without getting a lot of the evidence so far in this case that the plaintiffs actually have some really good evidence, I read through the case and I noticed that they named several John Does. Does that become very problematic when you don't even have a name or a badge to actually attach the allegations to?
CEVALLOS: Not at all. Actually, that's a routine pleading practice, where you don't know the name of a particular defendant, a plaintiff's attorney sort of covers their bases by naming John Does yet to be named, and then arguably later on, they can say, well, we knew there was somebody but we didn't know who it was. It's really just safe risk averse pleading when you are filing a complaint.
BANFIELD: All right. Danny, stick around, because I have another case I want you to comment on in a moment.
It is a disturbing story involving the use of tasers in a suburb of Atlanta. The family of 24-year-old Gregory Towns Jr. has filed a wrongful death suit against the city of East Point and two of its former police officers after Town died in police custody last April. According to investigators, Police were responding to a domestic dispute and forced to chase after Towns once he fled the scene. So, after stopping him, Towns was handcuffed and according to the lawsuit he was tased up to 13 times when he refused to cooperate with the officers demands that he walk to the cruiser. Sergeant Marcus Eberhart resigned after Towns' death and Corporal Howard Weems Jr. was fired.
But here's the thing -- no criminal charges have been filed in this case. Claudia Towns is Gregory's mother and she joins me tonight live with her attorney Chris Stewart.
And thank you to both of you for taking the time.
If I could begin with you, Mr. Stewart, I'd like to ask you if you can outline what the merit you think this case has given the fact that police protocol does allow for officers to use tasers when the suspect is not being compliant. And in this particular case, Mr. Towns wasn't being compliant but didn't suggest that he was need in medical attention and nor, according to the officers, did he show any sort of medical distress.
CHRIS STEWART, TOWNS FAMILY ATTORNEY: You know, that's the key thing, what you just said, is "according to the officers". And that's one of the main problems is according to the officers they used their stun guns five times. We got open records from the tasers that were used that day and we found it was triggered at least 14 times.
So, we're not taking what the officer said at the scene as truth until we fully find out what happened. But we do know is they violated their own East Point policy regarding use of a stun gun. They're not to use it on a handcuffed individual to prod or make them walk. And that's what they did.
BANFIELD: And let me just ask you this -- given the fact that the medical examiner in this case actually said that the cause of death was hypertensive cardio vascular disease exacerbated by physical exertion and conducted electrical stimulation, but yet, four months later, there is still no criminal case. There are still no charges in this case.
And I'm going to give statements from the police in this case, because we did reach out to them about this. The East Point police said that they're not commenting pending this potential litigation and the Fulton County district attorney has no comment as well, saying that the matter is still under investigation.
The lawyer for one of the officers did give us a statement saying that Mr. Weems, this is Officer Weems, is appealing his termination and Mr. Weems did not cause Mr. Towns' death.
That's a very tough battle in terms there is no criminal case for you to sort of base your wrongful death suit on. Do you feel like that this is going to be an uphill battle for you?
STEWART: I think it's one of the very rare clear cut situations. You know, we actually have their policy that they violated and it just came out today from a source that the internal affairs investigation done after this incident found that both officers violated excessive force during an arrest and violated the use of a no non-lethal weapon which is the taser, using it on the exact things that we put in our complaint, which is amazing that we didn't know what was in the internal affairs investigation report until today.
BANFIELD: Mr. Stewart, why do you think there are no charges? Again, with four months into this?
STEWART: Yes, I think that the Fulton County D.A.'s office is still looking into it. You know, I have full faith in them, that they are conducting a thorough investigation and that they'll bring it to a grand jury. But even if they don't, it's not going to stop us for pursuing justice in this case.
BANFIELD: And, Ms. Towns, if I could just first and first, before I ask you questions, just express -- you know, I'm very sorry for your loss and no mother should ever have to go through this. And I don't know what the process it for you in terms of -- at one point grieving and another point seeking justice.
What do you see, ma'am, as justice in this case?
CLAUDIA TOWNS, MOTHER OF GREGORY TOWNS JR.: At this case, we're still investigating. And we're still looking forward to justice, from a criminal point of view as well as a civil point of view.
BANFIELD: And if you don't see charges in this case, do you think that you'll be satisfied if you can at least go forward with this civil prosecution, with this civil case?
TOWNS: I won't be satisfied until we get justice. And not just for Gregory, but for all the people, for all races. We need justice. Not just in the South, but worldwide.
BANFIELD: I appreciate both of you.
TOWNS: Stop the violence.
BANFIELD: I appreciate both of you. And again, I'm very sorry for what you're having to go through, Ms. Towns.
And, Mr. Stewart, I appreciate your feedback on this and I'd love to be able to continue this conversation as this progresses.
Thank you to both of you.
BANFIELD: I also just want to point out clearly as well, because this has been a very big issue with excessive force and the use of force when it comes to police and suspects, all of the people in this case were black and this wasn't a necessarily a race issue. It's not being brought up in this case as the suspect and the responding officers were black.
But I also want to bring in Danny Cevallos, our legal analyst, to sort of go through some of these issues as well.
When you have a case, Danny, where there's no charges, as I laid out already, the autopsy report called this a homicide and still no charges, four months of investigation -- do you see a civil case as having an uphill battle?
CEVALLOS: Every civil case against the police or governmental entity has the exact same qualified immunity problem that we talked about before. It's exceedingly difficult to sue the police. When it comes to use of tasers when suspects are in handcuffs, the courts are all over the place.
But one sort of general rule you can apply is that prior to getting a suspect into handcuffs, courts will decide that force, including use of tasers might be more reasonable than once a suspect is in handcuffs. However, you can imagine a set of facts where a suspect may still require some form of submission and, really, courts are all over the place. Defendants which are usually government entities or taser companies often take the position that there is a causation issue. Believe it or not, they take the position that the taser -- there's no proof that the taser caused the death and they get into lots of scientific expert studies, including incorporating a medical examiner.
But believe it or not, causation is often a hotly disputed issue and that is specifically whether or not running an electric current through the human body is the direct cause of cardiac arrhythmia, which is the most common cause of injury when using a taser.
BANFIELD: I'm always fascinated by causation, especially when there's something medical -- and this -- Mr. Towns did have other medical issues. He had hypertensive cardiovascular disease, but the manner of death from the Fulton County medical examiner's report is homicide, use of drive stun conducted electrical device by police.
That's really hard to sort of get around.
CEVALLOS: Well, it is and it isn't. Remember, when we're talking about the medical examiner, he's not the prosecutor. Any time you have a death from other than natural causes, it must to fall into some other subsets, one of which is homicide.
And, really, that means that one human killed another. Remember that in the case of police officers, they may kill and it may be justified. But that's illegal determination. Certainly, the medical examiner's conclusion is important, but on the other hand, it does not mean a legal charge of an unlawful killing, because again, officers enjoy -- and I use enjoy in the legal sense -- that qualified immunity which shields them from most liability that the rest of us civilians would be exposed too.
BANFIELD: And you could see the defense being, yes, the stun gun may have contributed to the death but that doesn't mean it was used erroneously.
Danny, always good to see you. Thank you.
Danny Cevallos joining us live on this.
And OUTFRONT next, comedy legend Joan Rivers in serious condition, just a year after another health care. Our Miguel Marquez is live at the hospital where she is being treated.
Plus, a California man thought photographs taken by his late wife were forever lost until two detectives used a very ordinary image to connect the dots.
BANFIELD: Tonight, comedy legend Joan Rivers is in serious condition after apparently suffering cardiac arrest on Thursday. Her daughter, Melissa Rivers, issues a statement today, saying, quote, "My mother would be so touch by the tributes and prayers that we've received from around the world. Her condition remains serious but she is receiving the best treatment and care possible."
Rivers remains hospitalized at Mount Sinai in New York City tonight.
And our Miguel Marquez is live outside of the hospital right now.
So, Miguel, what has been the reaction from her many, many fans?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So many of them, Ashleigh, and it's safe to say that because of the sparsity of information they are holding their collective breath. We caught with one fan who saw her show on Wednesday night here in town, and he is hoping now it's not her last.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Joan Rivers appearing fit as a fiddle and in full outrage comedy mode Wednesday night, even joking about her own death.
SHADE RUPE, FILM DIRECTOR: She looked out at the audience and said you know, I'm 81. You know, I could go at any moment. I could just go over. I could just go over right here and you all look down and think it's part of the show.
MARQUEZ: Shade Rupe snapped this pic from his front-row seat, a hardcore fan aka Joan Ranger, he even got this one with the queen of mean just after the show around 9:30 p.m. He says she was the picture of health.
(on camera): This was a classic Joan, tough, funny, bizarre, outrageous.
RUPE: More than classic. The best I've every seen her. Truly, I was really surprised that she just gave everything.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Hours later, Thursday morning, she was at Yorkville Endoscopy, facility specializing in digestive disorders. By 9:30 a.m., during what should have been a routine out-patient procedure, she stopped breathing, went into cardiac arrest and was rushed to nearby Mount Sinai for emergency care.
(on camera): How shocked were you when you heard the news?
RUPE: Absolutely. The world turned upside down, 911.
MARQUEZ: In recent days, the 81-year-old had been in tiptop form. No indication she was ailing. Here she is taking the ALS ice bucket challenge on E! Entertainment last week.
JOAN RIVERS, COMEDIAN: Everybody having security. Security!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Love you, Joan.
MARQUEZ: Then, there was Rivers walking out a CNN interview. RIVERS: Stop it with, and you do this and you're mean, you're not the
one to interview a person who does humor. Sorry.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Are we serious?
MARQUEZ: Feisty and tough as ever. Love for the razor sharp-witted Rivers coming out.
Actress Marlee Matlin urging Rivers to get well and, quote, "moon the doctors for us while you're recuperating."
Comedian Billy Eichner tweeted, "So looking forward to Joan Rivers' jokes about this."
Actor Zachary Quinto tweeted, "No one is ready to go on with you, lady."
Her fans agree.
RUPE: Joan Rivers is necessary. We love her. We love you, Joan.
MARQUEZ: Her fans certainly do love her. She has done thousands and thousands of shows. She was supposed to have one tonight. It's been cancelled. There are others that are scheduled for, coming up here in September.
Venues aren't cancelling them yet, hoping that she will get better and keep them laughing -- Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: All right. Miguel Marquez, live for us -- thank you.
Coming up next, a camera stolen from a grief-stricken man and the detectives who cracked the case for him.
BANFIELD: A picture is worth a thousand words and for a California man already broken hearted over the death of his wife, the pictures on a stolen camera taken from their home were worth so much more. They were priceless.
Here's Kyung Lah.
DAVE LACEY, BURGLARY VICTIM: She's my best friend. She's obviously the woman I love.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is difficult for Dave Lacey to put into words his connection with his wife Erica. So, it hit him hard when one of her treasured items was stolen in a home burglary.
A year later, detectives Jerry Verdugo and Paul McClaskey nabbed the burglars, caught with a stack of stolen goods and receipts from this pawnshop where they hawked items taken from a number of homes.
DET. PAUL MCCLASKEY, SANTA ANA POLICE: We weren't able to track down really anything because none of the serial numbers of these items showed up in the system as stolen.
LAH (on camera): This is where the story usually ends, the bad guy is nabbed, stolen goods recovered, though it is difficult to trace and return them to the original owner. But in this case the detectives just couldn't let go.
MCCLASKEY: It turned on, so, like, OK, great, now we can look.
LAH (voice-over): They were looking at pictures on a stolen camera.
DET. JERRY VERDUGO, SANTA ANA POLICE: I started thumbing through it, it was apparent that it was a camera that was special. There was photographs of a funeral. We all take personal pictures, selfies but this didn't appear to be a selfie. This is something you would keep for 40 or 50 years or for the rest of your life. We have to find out who this belongs to.
LAH: But how? They had no name, only these images.
VERDUGO: As I flipped through the pictures, I noticed a wall that just a brown wall. That's when I went I think I know where this is at, let's go.
LAH (on camera): How do you remember a beige wall, though?
VERDUGO: I can't explain it. It's just something that I saw it one time, and it stayed in my memory bank, and when I saw the picture, I correlated my previous memory with a picture I saw and brought us here.
LAH (voice-over): They were parked outside Dave Lacey's house. It was Erica's camera that was stolen, images that had not been backed up on a computer. She was an amateur photographer, a hobby to fill those days as she fought large B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
(on camera): That was his wife.
VERDUGO: That's his wife, recently married.
LAH: Those were the last moments he had with his wife.
LACEY: I thought it was a joke at first, to be honest. I had given up all thought of recovery.
LAH (voice-over): It had been a year since the camera was stolen and somehow the burglars, the pawnshop, no one erase those precious images.
LACEY: I almost feel like, you know, someone was watching out for me. Just to get it back. LAH (on camera): You feel like she was looking out for you?
LACEY: Yes, I feel like she still does. It makes things easier.
LAH (voice-over): A connection where words fail, it's the pictures that speak for themselves.
Kyung Lah, CNN, Santa Ana, California.
BANFIELD: We'll be right back.
BANFIELD: I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Thanks for joining us and have a great weekend.
"AC360" starts right now.