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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Ferguson Officer Not Charged In Teen's Death; Protests Across Ferguson
Aired November 24, 2014 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Don. This is Jake Tapper with you in Ferguson, Missouri. Let's reset for those tuning in in the United States and around the world this evening.
The prosecutor here in St. Louis County announced that there would not be an indictment against Police Officer Darren Wilson. Darren Wilson, of course, well-known for shooting, the killing of an unarmed African- American teenager, 18-year old Michael Brown in August setting off weeks of unrest in the Ferguson, Missouri area.
We've been combing through Wilson's testimony before the grand jury. Let's read you some of what we've seen so far. Wilson testified, quote, "As he, meaning Michael Brown, is coming towards me. I keep telling him to get on the ground. He doesn't. I shoot a series of shots. I don't know how many I shot.
I just know I shot it. I know I missed a couple. But I know I hit him at least once, because I saw his body kind of jerk. The face that he had," Wilson testified, "was looking straight through me, like I wasn't even there, coming straight at me, like he was going to run right through me.
And when he gets about that 8 to 10 feet away, I look down," Wilson testified. "I remember looking at my sights and firing. All I see is his head and that's what I shot. I felt another one of those punches in my face could knock me out or worse.
He's obviously bigger than I was and stronger, and I've already taken two to the face, and I didn't think I would, but the third one could be fatal if he hit me right," Wilson testified before the grand jury.
"I tried to hold his right arm and use my left hand to have some type of control and not be trapped in my car anymore. And when I grabbed him the only way I can describe it is I felt like a 5-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan."
That is the testimony before the grand jury of Officer Darren Wilson. We have learned this evening that there will not be an indictment. There will not be any charges against Officer Darren Wilson.
The grand jury making that decision, and the announcement was this evening. Let's go now to get the latest from the streets of Ferguson. CNN's Stephanie Elam is watching this all unfold. Stephanie, what are you seeing?
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, it's a much different scene out here now than it was earlier. When we first got here after coming from Clayton, there were about three businesses at the same time. They were all vandalized in this area.
In fact, I'll just walk back to just show you. You've probably seen it if you've covered it, the Ferguson market and liquor. This one was vandalized. I watched a man kick in the door of another wireless shop right here.
And people run in there, and then I saw people come up to him, young people, young women, go up and say why are you doing this, our neighborhood? Why would you do this where we live? This is wrong and sort of self-policing.
And I saw people leave the store after that. I'm taking my headset out because I'm hearing myself. But I'll put it in to hear you. But when you watch what was going on, it was mayhem. We watched police leave, come back with their riot gear on.
And in the interim, we saw these buildings catch on fire. This was a beauty supply store and we watched it burn to the ground. The fire department did show you. They were here for a bit. Then there was gunfire. The fire department left.
So you've got three buildings that I can see from my vantage point, Jake, that are burning here on West Florissant. We are by West Florissant and Ferguson.
And at this point right now, the police are slowly sweeping down the street, law enforcement pushing everyone out. If you are in front of that line, they are telling you that if you stay there you will be arrested.
But it is pretty quiet after a lot of gunfire erupted. The streets pretty much cleared out after that point where I'm standing, but it was mayhem when I first got here -- Jake.
TAPPER: Yes, it's very, very tragic seeing all these businesses, local businesses burned down, vandalized, looted. There is a market, Sam's meat market that we visited in August after it was looted. And we've been told by one of the managers, a man that we've become friends with, Ibrahim that it was burned down this evening as well.
These are people who have come here to provide goods to the community. Stephanie, when I was walking on South Florissant earlier and saw looting and vandalizing of Beauty World, there was a woman who attempted to lecture the looters.
What are you doing? This isn't helping us. This isn't what it's all about. I'm sure you must have heard some similar exhortations to people in the crowd, to the people committing these criminal acts.
And it looks as though we've lost Stephanie Elam. We lost Stephanie Elam. Just a recap for those tuning in, the grand jury in St. Louis County decided to not indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed 18-year old Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager in August.
The grand jury met more than two dozen times to go over all the evidence and we are getting some of the evidence that has been released by the prosecutor. The prosecutor, when he made his remarks introducing the evidence and announcing that there would not be any charges handed down against Officer Darren Wilson.
The prosecutor, meticulously walked through all the different contradictory testimonies by witnesses or people who claimed to be witnesses, pointing out how often their testimony contradicted each other, contradicted the physical evidence, contradicted what they said at later times and later dates.
There has been a lot of attention paid to the witnesses because so many of them have come forward and given interviews to the media. The prosecutor wanting to try to explain to people how unreliable, in his view, and apparently the view of the grand jury that testimony was.
I'm told that we have -- do we have Stephanie Elam back? Do we have her back? We're going to go to Ed Lavandera who is with us. Ed, where are you and what are you seeing?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm here at the police department location here in Ferguson. We're just able to make our way back here after being trapped for the last two and a half hours there on West Florissant road, and we were there early on when the buildings started at the McDonald's and a cell phone store when it started being set on fire.
And there was not a single police officer on that stretch of road for quite, quite some time clearly overwhelmed by the scene that was unfolding here at the police department location. But it took a great deal of time, and it quickly unfolded there.
And it was, I can tell you, Jake, just mayhem on that stretch of road for the longest time. We were targeted by various people who were trying to get us to stop filming and taking pictures of the scene there.
So we started falling back for our own security, had to make it, our way to a public storage unit area that was there. And we retreated into that area, and that's when that building was set on fire, so we were unable to get out of there.
The flames had just gotten too, too strong and too large for us to kind of make our way past that. And on top of that, there were dozens and dozens of gunshots that we heard just on the other side of the building.
So it was just simply too chaotic, too unsafe for us to venture back out onto that road and to get out of there. Finally things have settled down to the point where we've been able to make our way back here, which is about a mile or so from where we spent the last two and a half hours -- Jake. TAPPER: And Ed Lavandera, you were near earlier tonight the storage facility that was burned down, is that right?
LAVANDERA: Yes. That's where we ended up and it became the most intense scene. We were just up the road a couple blocks. If you've been watching some of the pictures here from throughout the night, an McDonald's that was, we watched people ransack and smashed the windows out of, and then they just basically made their way down the street.
And it just became too treacherous for us as a lot of people started turning their sights and their anger toward us as we were trying to record what was going on. And people threatening us and telling us not to record what we were seeing.
So that's the area that we retreated back to was the public storage facility area where we had set up, and that was going to be kind of our home base and safety point throughout the evening. And then they set fire to the building.
And we were just simply kind of barricaded in. We weren't able to get out of that situation between the fire and all of the gunshots and the mayhem, and for about at least an hour or so, we saw no law enforcement presence on that stretch of West Florissant. It was too dangerous for us at that point to get out of that situation.
TAPPER: I don't know if anybody has done a comparison, the damage and the looting and fires that happened in the immediate aftermath of the death of Michael Brown, and that which happened this evening.
It seems to me much more dramatic, much worse this evening despite the pleas from the leaders of the community and the family of Michael Brown that the protests, be peaceful and there not be violence and looting.
We're now getting a first look at some of the photographs. We have Sara Sidner now. I want to go to her now if we can right now. Sara, can you hear me?
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I can hear you right now. I want do show you what's going on. This is an O'Reilly's auto parts, or it was, and it is destroyed. The building has basically collapsed. You can hear the explosions going on inside there from whatever is inside. Sorry, I just got hit by a rock and then you're seeing --
TAPPER: Are you OK?
SIDNER: The Title Max just across the street. I'm OK. I'm OK. I've been hit with much worse in my day. You're seeing the Title Max just up the street, right across. And that's another fire.
And you're hearing the explosions from inside some of those places. And then down here, there's another fire, just behind me. We were standing there just moments ago. That's the Auto Zone that's on fire.
TAPPER: Sara -- I'm going to interrupt you. I'm sorry. I see other rocks going into the picture there. They're obviously some really bad people near you. I want you to get to safety if you can and we'll come back to you and get more of your excellent reporting.
SIDNER: We're OK. It was from across the street.
TAPPER: I'd prefer it if you could just get to safety. We'll come back to you later, I promise, and get your reporting. I want to make sure whoever that nefarious person that is, that that resolve itself, and I'd like you to get to safety if you could.
All right, let's go back to Ed Lavandera, if we could. He's near the Ferguson Police Department. Ed, what exactly are the police doing behind you right now?
LAVANDERA: Right now, they're just standing guard in front of the police department headquarters there, trying to prevent people from standing in the street and protesting in the middle of the street. The crowd, I think, has thinned out considerably, considering what was here earlier, Jake.
But to kind of piggyback off of what you were saying a little while ago, as you were talking about the scene there on that stretch of West Florissant where Sara is and that is the area that I just left as well.
And you were talking about comparing it back to what it was like in August. You know, we were on that stretch of road together back in August and the scene that unfolded there tonight was far worse than what we saw three, three months ago.
I can, based on what I saw during a week and a half of protests back in August and compared to what I saw tonight. Tonight was infinitely more treacherous and a dangerous situation, and added to the fact, you know, that there was no one to kind of control the situation for the longest time.
It is now much calmer on that stretch and law enforcement made their way through that stretch of road and has cleared out and thinned out the crowds considerably. But for a solid two hours, that was an incredibly dangerous place to be and a total mayhem, a free-for-all about what was going on in that street.
TAPPER: And Ed, right now we're looking at satellite shot from KMOV. It appears to be -- I don't think it's your location. It's another location. Is there somebody who can get in my ear and tell me exactly what we're looking at, this satellite shot of KMOV, Ferguson, Missouri.
A lot of police lined up. Is that the police headquarters? Ed, it is actually behind you I guess. It seems like there are a lot of police. Are they cordoning off a crowd from approaching the police department? What exactly are they doing?
LAVANDERA: Yes, right now, it's just a line across the street and just standing there in their protective gear. The shields and the helmets, not a lot of movement and not a lot of protesters and, you know, in any kind of confrontation with those authorities. So much calmer here and everything seems to be at a standstill for now. TAPPER: How many protesters would you estimate? I know you're not an expert on crowd estimates, but putting on your amateur hat, if you would, how big is the crowd there? And what is the tenor between law enforcement and those protesters right now? We've seen a lot of different kinds of moods between police and protesters, police and other elements in Ferguson this evening. How would you describe what you're seeing?
LAVANDERA: Here in the exact location where I'm at, it's calm, maybe a couple dozen people left here, you know, from time to time you see, you hear some of them say some things across the street to the police officers, but you know, not, not a tense scene here by, by any means.
And I'm trying to make sense of the pictures that we're seeing there and figure out exactly the location that we're looking at, because that doesn't really seem to be the location unless it's on the other side of the building from where I'm at. That doesn't necessarily appear to be the location where we're at right now -- Jake.
TAPPER: OK, all right. We'll get some more information from our production team about what exactly you're looking at right now. I appreciate it. Of course, there are two parts to the story this evening.
Both the reaction, the protests, the looting, the police and the grand jury making the decision not to indict over Wilson, and we want to explore that as well. We're getting a first look now at photographs that were shown to the grand jury of what Officer Wilson looked like after the shooting of Michael Brown.
Wilson told the grand jury that he had a swollen cheek, and he had scratches on the back of his neck from the fight, he said, when he tried to get out of his police cruiser, Brown slammed the door shut twice.
That's when Wilson said he feared for his life after Brown punched him in the face according to Officer Wilson. Earlier, we heard from CNN legal analysts, Jeffrey Toobin and Mark Geragos, who weighed in on the prosecutor's statement.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Clearly the evidence he thought was the most important was that there were certain witnesses who saw Michael Brown charge, that was his word, wonder if the witness used the same word, charge at Officer Wilson, Michael Brown, whether there was that aggressive move.
Because that really, his entire conclusion was hinged on that and he clearly discounted some witnesses and believed others, and I think it's going to be very important to see whether the physical evidence and all the other evidence supports the conclusion that this shooting was the result of aggressive action by Michael Brown. That's what he believed. Let's see what the evidence says.
MARK GERAGOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This is a parody of the criminal justice system. This is a prosecutor who punted this case to the grand jury. I will guarantee you, I haven't seen it yet. I'll make the statement right now. I bet you his two assistants did not ask for an indictment. He showed exactly what his predisposition was. This was a foregone conclusion. This was a rigged game. This is exactly the result he wanted.
TAPPER: All right. That was some analysis from Jeffrey Toobin and Mark Geragos after the decision was announced not to indict Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown. We're going to take a very, very quick break.
When we come back, more on the decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson, and the reaction of the Ferguson and St. Louis community, back after this.
TAPPER: A violent reaction, as many had feared, in Ferguson, Missouri and the surrounding area after a grand jury in St. Louis County decided not to charge the white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in August.
The restaurant is among at least three buildings set on fire by looters and vandals. Police cars have been smashed and burned, and looters raided the store where that teenager, Michael Brown, allegedly stole cigars moments before his death.
All of this after the prosecutor said that the grand jury had no choice but to clear Officer Darren Wilson for shooting Brown multiple times.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT MCCULLOCH, ST. LOUIS COUNTY PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: After their exhaustive review of the evidence, the grand jury deliberated over two days, making their final decision. They determined that no probable cause exists to file any charge against Officer Wilson and returned a no-true bill on each of the five indictments.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Brown's family is, quote, "profoundly disappointed." But the family is also calling for calm, calling for peace. They issued a statement this evening saying quote, "while we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change.
We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen. We respectfully ask that you please keep your protests peaceful." Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate reaction the Brown family said.
And President Barack Obama took to the cameras to also weigh in with a similar plea. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I also appeal to the law enforcement officials in Ferguson and the region to show care and restraint in managing peaceful protests that may occur. I understand our police officers put their lives on the line for us every single day. They've got a tough job to do to maintain public safety and hold accountable those who break the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: We're going to go to Sara Sidner right now who is on the streets in Ferguson, Missouri. Sara, what can you tell us? What are you seeing?
SIDNER: I'm standing on West Florissant. We've come down the road about a half-mile. This is Red's Barbecue. I've been here for two months, Jake, and everyone talks about how great this barbecue is. They have been open, though, they've been boarded up, and now it's burning.
This is a mom and pop shop here, right down the street, within a few hundred feet where Michael Brown was killed. They are part of this community and now their building is being destroyed. If you look to my right, you will see the public storage building there. That building is on fire.
There are -- there's at least one building there. Then you look a little further down, and we can see the police. They've come up to, this is Canfield Drive where Michael Brown was shot and killed. And they're just, just a little bit beyond Canfield Drive.
And as you look down this road, it does look like a war zone. There is a building after building that is on fire. And, if you look towards the other way, where we just were, there are other buildings that are on fire. People are asking me about my head, yes, I got hit in the head with a rock or a bottle. There's a little --
TAPPER: It appears, OK. Do we have Sara? Did we lose Sara Sidner again? We've lost Sara Sidner again. Let's go back to Stephanie Elam if we can. Our regrets, we'll go back to Sara Sidner when we can. But that's disappointing news for people in the Ferguson community.
The idea that Red's Barbecue would be set on fire. That is a staple of the community. Sara Sidner, where are you? What can you tell us? Stephanie Elam.
ELAM: I'm thinking you're talking to me, so I'm going to go ahead and talk.
TAPPER: Please do. Please do.
ELAM: We are just up the street from where --
TAPPER: My s words. ELAM: I know, your s is from L.A. Sara is down the street. Up here where we are, this used to be a beauty supply shop, and we got here just in time to see it start smoking from the inside. Then it just started to collapse and burn.
We watched it burn to the ground. Firefighters were here. They did try to come in and battle the fire here. Then there were gunshots. And then we saw, we heard them yell, we heard them yell saying get out of here. It's not safe.
So the fire department pulled out and this family-owned business is now gone, demolished, and that's the thing that's most disappointing about this entire night is that people in this community, family-owned businesses, mom and pop shops, businesses built up over the years are gone, demolished over this, in this one night.
Depressing, and you heard people talking about that. I heard young women going up to men and saying to them, stop this. Why are you doing this? This is where we live. This is our community. Don't do this. And it still was happening.
I had one young man come up to me and say that he was just really angry about the fact that they didn't find one thing wrong, one thing to indict Officer Wilson about, and that's why he was out here. He was just very, very upset about it and just wanted to be heard.
But the one thing I think is worth pointing out is that in the last few weeks there have been protesters, demonstrators. And they were out here again tonight, no doubt about it. But there's an element that just wants to agitate.
And there's a difference. What's sad in this case is that the agitators have taken away from the protesters and the demonstrators and the agitators, who will remembered and that for the people I've spoken to, that's what they're upset about -- Jake.
TAPPER: Stephanie, I just want to make sure because there have been so many fires. You're saying that the fire department was there, but they had to leave because it was too dangerous to try to put out the fire or did I mishear you?
ELAM: Yes. No. You heard that. Down here are all their hoses. They just left them. They were here. They were down in the middle of the street. There's a big yellow hose. They were here. We heard them yell and say it's not safe because of the gunfire.
That's when we saw the last remnants of the people who were out here leave and the fire department pulled out. It wasn't safe. And this beauty shop, this family-owned business is gone, finished. So they were here. And they left.
And they're now actually pulling back up. The Ferguson Fire Department is now showing back up at this point. For the most part, the fires that were burning here are pretty much burned to the buildings that they were in. I can't see any flames anymore now from where I'm standing. So the fire department coming back in but everything's gone. The ones that were burning, these three businesses that I can see, they're gone. They're done.
TAPPER: And this is because there were gun shots. That's why the fire department decided it was not safe to try to put out the fire at that moment because there were gunshots in the vicinity, am I right?
ELAM: Yes, you're right. No, there were gunshots. I was here. They sounded like they were maybe 300 yards away from where we were. We heard them yell at each other to get out of here. It wasn't safe. We could hear them. The gunshots happened.
The fire department left. Now do I know for sure that's the reason they left? No. But they were pretty well correlated from where I stood because we took cover as well. It sounded like it was way too close here. Now the street is empty.
The police have moved all the way down the street toward where Sara's location is. And the street has been cleared out. The only people here now are pretty much media and security -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Stephanie Elam in Ferguson, Missouri, we're going to take another quick break. When we come back, more on the decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson and the tragic reaction here in Ferguson, Missouri.
TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper for CNN. Let's bring you up to speed on what's going on in Ferguson, Missouri this evening. The grand jury has decided to not indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown back in August.
Businesses have been looted, and buildings set on fire after it was announced that the policeman who shot and killed the unarmed teenager would not be charged. Officer Darren Wilson says he was injured in an initial struggle with the 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9th.
Wilson told the grand jury he fired the fatal shots moments later when Brown came at him while, according to Wilson, reaching under his shirt. An unidentified witness told the grand jury she watched the entire incident and she testified Brown was not running and did not reach under his shirt, but the prosecutor said the grand jury weighed all the evidence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCULLOCH: I'm ever mindful that this decision will not be accepted by some and may cause disappointment for others. But all decisions in the criminal justice system must be determined by the physical and scientific evidence and the credible, the credible testimony corroborated by that evidence.
Not in response to public outcry or for political expediency. Decisions on a matter as serious as charging an individual with a crime simply cannot be decided on anything less than a complete, critical examination of all available evidence. Anything less is not justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: I want to go right now to Sara Sidner who is in Ferguson, Missouri on, I believe, West Florissant Avenue. Sara, how are you doing and what can you tell us?
SIDNER: I'm perfectly fine. Just have a little bump on my head. What's happening out here is far worse than what's happened to me. This is Red's Barbecue to my right here. We're going to shine a light on that. And you can see that the fire is burning and that the building is going to be by the end of this ruined.
There is nobody here to put the fire out and so this is one of the staples here. Everybody loved this place, mom and pop shop. It's gone. It's destroyed. You're seeing here more fires burning. I want to give you an idea of where the police are now, Jake, because they basically cleared this area.
And if you look just there, there is a line of lights. And that is the police just behind them there are officers in riot gear. We've been talking to folks out here. And some of the residents are saying where is the National Guard? Why don't they stop this?
Well, the truth of the matter is there has been gunfire, looting, fires set, and this community is be being destroyed, and the residents who live here are going to have to live with that after this.
This has been extremely, extremely difficult for a lot of people who live here. But also people are talking about Michael Brown and the anger they feel about what the prosecutor has come and done. They are angry about what has happened, basically, from the grand jury.
They are angry that there wasn't an indictment and there's a lot of strong, emotional feelings here, and you can hear them coming out. People are raw emotion is pouring out into the streets. The streets are empty.
The police are pushing forward, telling people they need to go home, that they cannot be in the streets and create any additional problems out here -- Jake.
TAPPER: Sara, just a few minutes ago, we were talking to Stephanie Elam who was outside a beauty shop of some sort that had burned down. She had been watching the fire department, the local fire department here in Ferguson try to put out the fire.
But then they heard gunfire from around 300 yards away or so and the fire department deciding it was not safe to be there to put out the fire Left, got in their trucks and left. I don't know if you've had an opportunity to ask anybody why there is not any attempt to put out the fire at Red's Barbecue. But I wonder if so, if it is a similar reason, the idea that it is not considered safe for the fire department to go to West Florissant right now.
SIDNER: That is correct. That is exactly correct. That is exactly what's going on right now. That is why you're not seeing those vehicles come out. What they've decided is life first, buildings second. So you're not seeing the response you would normally see.
There's just too much going on in the streets. Yes, you're hearing it quiet now. But already there's back and forth between the police and a few people out here.
And basically we've been hearing gunshots go off in some parts of West Florissant and people are thinking, look, the fire brigades aren't coming out because they're worried about their own safety as well.
TAPPER: Yes. The -- it is tragic to watch what's going on in Ferguson this evening. Earlier today -- does somebody there want to say something or is he just -- OK?
SIDNER: Do you want to talk to me?
TAPPER: Earlier today, Sara, I went to the Canfield apartments where Michael Brown was shot, and I spoke with some of the locals there. Obviously everybody was praying for peace, but I asked a young man what he thought was going to happen if there wasn't an indictment, and he said well, I think we'll be OK here in the Canfield apartments.
But then he suggested using some colorful language that the shops up the street on West Florissant, the street on which you're standing that they would be in trouble. And it is, it is so sad to see whoever is doing this destroy the community.
The Quick Trip Mart that was burned down the night that Michael Brown was shot, that has not been replaced. That is just a vacant, chained off lot right now. And it is sad to think about what is going to happen to these other future vacant spaces that in some cases probably will not be built upon for quite some time.
SIDNER: And Jake, just so you know, this is Canfield, right here. I mean, we're standing on Canfield. If I was to walk down the street just a little ways, about three to five minutes from here, that's where Michael Brown was shot, and that's where the Canfield Green apartments are that you've been talking about.
We've been talking to people for weeks. I've been here for a couple months now about this very day. And so many of the residents have said to me and Michael Brown's family has said do it peacefully. Speak your mind. Come out, use the first amendment, but do it peacefully.
Don't ruin the community in which all of the residents here live and we are just seeing the opposite of that happening here on West Florissant. I think there's a lot of disappointment. We talked to a gentleman earlier today standing in front of a building. He said you're not coming in here to loot anything. Even though the window also been broken out and some people had tried to steal things out of that building, he stood strong by himself, mind you, he said you are not coming in here.
This is not how we do things we do not want to ruin the community while we are protesting there are people trying to stop this, but the truth is, it's too late. There's so many things burning, there's a lot of heartbreak. In the morning, we'll see exactly what the scene looks like in the daylight -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Sara Sidner, we'll come back to you in a little bit. Thanks so much for joins us. Protests have been erupting across the United States after the grand jury here in St. Louis County said it would not indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.
In Ferguson, a St. Louis police patrol car was vandalized shortly after the announcement. Officers say deployed smoke bombs to disburse crowds. I can say some of them were tear gas. Some places were looted including the market and liquor. That's where Brown was stealing cigarillos.
In Oakland, California, demonstrators laid on the ground with chalk outlines, referencing the scene of the shooting, a similar scene played out in Washington State, Seattle. In New York City, they marched peacefully in Times Square.
You're now watching live coverage of the situation -- well, that's New York City. This has been the situation in Ferguson, sending out ripples, sending out an effect all across the United States. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is another example that black lives are not valued here in this society. It's another example of a miscarriage of justice. And I'm absolutely outraged.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: A strong reaction in Ferguson, Missouri, after a grand jury announced it would not charge white Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.
Protesters looted the market and liquor store where Brown in august stole cigarillos shortly before he was shot to death by the police officer. At least three buildings have been set on fire here in Ferguson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've had enough, enough racism, nough bigotry. It's got to stop. It's killing us. It's killing our city. It's killing our state and it's killing our nation. We've got to stop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: United States President Barack Obama spoke about race relations in the country shortly after the grand jury ruling in the Michael Brown case came down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We have made enormous progress in race relations over the course of the past several decades. I have witnessed that in my own life, and to deny that progress, I think is to deny America's capacity for change.
But what is also true is that there are still problems, and communities of color aren't just making these problems up. Separating that from this particular decision, there are issues in which the law too often feels as if it is being applied in a discriminatory fashion.
I don't think that's the norm. I don't think that's true for the majority of communities or the vast majority of law enforcement officials. But these are real issues.
And we have to lift them up and not deny them or try to tamp them down. What we need to do is to understand them and figure out how do we make more progress?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Chaos broke out in the streets of Ferguson shortly after the grand jury's decision was announced. Stephanie Elam had to dodge bottles earlier. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELAM: Right now I'm standing out beside the McDonald's. People are throwing stuff at me right now. People are throwing stuff at me right now. It's that kind of scene out here.
TAPPER: Stephanie, get to safety right now.
ELAM: I feel safe actually, believe it or not, right now, but -- she's just having fun. It's just a young girl smiling and kicking stuff at us right now, but the energy out here is just seeing what actually -- how far they can get away with some of the stuff going on out here. There's no one regulating other than people from the community saying don't do this. Don't shoot this, don't record this, all this while the --
TAPPER: There's no police there? Stephanie -- OK.
TAPPER: That's a good idea for you to get to another location. It seems unusual there wouldn't be any police there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: There isn't really a tremendous amount known about Officer Wilson by the public. Brian Todd takes a closer look at what we do know about the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do we want?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): His city and police department became embroiled in one of the most explosive conflicts over race in recent years. While the teenager he shot became a household name. But Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson, the man at the center of conflict and controversy, still remains largely a mystery.
While CNN has learned Wilson did testify before the grand jury. Neither he nor his attorneys have ever offered a public account of what he said happened the day he shot Michael Brown. They've ignored repeated requests for comment. No trace of him and social media and friends say he's in hiding.
JEFF ROORDA, ST. LOUIS POLICE OFFICERS' ASSOCIATIONA: His location is not known.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": And he really can't go out there.
ROORDA: Not known to me either.
BLITZER: He can't walk around freely go to a store or a movie. Is that right?
ROORDA: I can't imagine that he can.
TODD: CNN has learned the 28-year-old san eight-year police veteran spending six of those in Ferguson. This past February he was given a commendation by his department seen in this video. Wilson seen here in surveillance video leaving the station the night of the shooting has never returned to active duty.
CNN has learned he plans to resign. Still it appears he has maintained a personal life. A source says he and his fiance, another officer with the police department, were married in recent weeks. Wilson was divorced last year and has a child.
For the most part, those who know Darren Wilson, including his fellow officers, have also stayed silent, refusing to share photos or memories. One longtime friend says he once played youth hockey with Darren Wilson and that Wilson is a good man not motivated by hate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He never talked about minorities. He was of the moral virtue where he would -- he would information bring something like that up. I doubt he -- even with his closest friends talked about stuff like that.
TODD: Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
TAPPER: All right, thanks to Brian Todd. Next on CNN, more reaction from the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of the grand jury decision in the shooting death of Michael Brown. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you saying that our lives are not equal? Our lives are not worthy of not even a day in court? That's what you just said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: It has been quite chaotic to be covering the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. Just hours ago we learned a grand jury will not indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown. That shooting took place in August.
Earlier this evening, many of us who were on the streets, there were people protesting, people doing other things, people in the media covering it all, officers of the law. A lot of tear gas.
In fact, at a different moment, Chris Cuomo and don lemon and the crew they were with were impacted by tear gas. About 90 minutes after the decision was announced.
DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We were dispersing here. We went into some of the store fronts in the little shopping area where we were. The glass is bashed out.
CUOMO: People were saying in the crowd, these are black-owned stores. Why are you doing this to black-owned businesses? At first some members of the protest are trying to stop it. Protesters are coming -- they are moving -- a woman in the crowd here --
A woman in bad distress, they are trying to get help from the police officers. The police officers are taking her.
CUOMO: Teargas just dropped right near us. It's going to get very bad here if we don't have masks.
They're throwing it back. There are a lot of bean bags being shown at teargas.
We'll go to Susan Hendricks so we can clear the scene.
TAPPER: It's a grisly scene. Some people in Ferguson have been trying to keep the peace during months of demonstrations. Most of those protests were peaceful. Ed Lavandera will now help us meet some of the individuals literally putting themselves between police and protesters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hurting others or destroying property is not the answer.
ANNOUNCER: You need to stop throwing objects and disperse immediately.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You were one of a handful of people who were in the middle of it all trying to keep the peace. You were like the last line of defense before things went crazy. I watched it. What was it like to be there on that line?
JAMES MOHAMMED, FERGUSON PEACEKEEPER: Every night that I went out there, I looked at my wife and I looked at my children, and I didn't know if I was coming home.
LAVANDERA: On this stretch of road in Ferguson, Missouri, on the nights the protests turned violent, there was a small group of peacekeepers, local religious leaders who put themselves between the cops and the protesters, putting their lives on the line.
MOHAMMED: We were the last line of defense. If we were to fail out there, if we would have not succeeded out there, could you imagine the blood that would have been on that street?
LAVANDERA: I've gone back and found a couple of those peacekeepers I found on those nights here on this street to talk about what it was like and get their perspective on what they fear might happen next here in Ferguson. So you're in the middle of that crowd out there. It's already tense, getting more tense and a guy in front of you telling you, I came here to die.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This actual words were I came here to die tonight. And my response was is why don't you choose life? Why don't you choose to live. You don't have to come to die tonight.
ANNOUNCER: You need to exit the roadway.
ROBERT WHITE, FERGUSON PEACEKEEPER: I am afraid as a citizen that there's going to be fashions on both sides that are not going to be able to keep peace. I remember the night when the frustrations built up between the clergy and the police officers.
And there was a disagreement with how the police were managing the people. And I remember when I was like, I'm done. I threw my hands up and I was ready to walk away. There was a particular sergeant from the highway patrol. As I took off my orange shirt and threw in the towel. He said if you quit, I'll quit. But the reality is there's bad protesters an your side and there's bad cops on my side. But if you and I quit, they're going to clash. And right there in the middle of the street, he and I came to tears and promised each other we were going to stand through until the end.
LAVANDERA: Will you be out here again doing what you did last time?
WHITE: We haven't left.
TAPPER: That was CNN's Ed Lavandera reporting with his protesters of the peacekeepers who were out there after the ruling. That's it for me. Our breaking news coverage of the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, continues with Rosemary Church and Errol Barrett at CNN Center. That's it for you. Good-bye for now.