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THE SITUATION ROOM
Holder Reacts to Ferguson Upset; Missouri Governor Deploys More Troops; Officer's Testimony Crucial in Grand Jury Decision; Police: Not Clear if Homicide Related to Rioting; Police Chief Holds Press Conference
Aired November 25, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the United States, speaking only moments ago.
Happening now, the breaking news: bracing for trouble after a night of burning and looting, there are now fears of more violence tonight in Ferguson, following a grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer who shot the teenager, Michael Brown.
As the U.S. National Guard deploys in force, is it a case of too little, too late?
Was justice served? Brown family attorneys say the grand jury transcripts proved the process was designed to protect the police officer, Darren Wilson. We're going to breakdown the testimony and Darren Wilson's side of the story.
And inciting a riot? Despite pleas for calm from other family members, did Michael Brown's stepfather spur the crowd to violence after the grand jury decision was announced?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Let's get right to the breaking news. Night is about to fall in Ferguson, Missouri. Authorities are now bracing for another round of violence after a grand jury's decision not to indict the white police officer Darren Wilson in the death of African-American teenager Michael Brown. That sparked a frenzy of burning, looting and destruction.
A dozen buildings were torched. Cars were set ablaze. Dozens of arrests were made.
Missouri's governor says the National Guard will be out in force tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JAY NIXON (D), MISSOURI: The violence we saw in the areas of Ferguson last night cannot be repeated. There will be more than 2,200 National Guardsmen in the region. Lives and property must be protected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: But Ferguson's mayor asks, why wasn't that done sooner?
Brown family lawyers say the grand jury process is broken and, if nothing else, the timing of last night's announcement is being widely criticized.
As protests spread across the country, President Obama is expected to address the events in Ferguson. We're going to hear from the president later this hour.
The National Urban League president, Marc Morial, he's standing by, along with our correspondents, our analysts, our newsmakers. Let's begin with CNN's Sara Sidner. She's in Ferguson and has the very latest -- Sara.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just a few moments ago we noticed the National Guard. I'll give you a look at it straight on there behind me. Showed up, got prepared, got their orders and got their riot gear together. They're being put in a line, almost a human blockade, if you will, outside the city of Ferguson Police Department and municipal court. They've been here for, you know, maybe about a half an hour or so. That's when we first noticed them.
We had residents, Wolf, talking to us last night while we were in the streets of West Florissant saying where is the National Guard? But timing, again. The governor did say the National Guard was going to be playing a role behind the scenes unless they were needed. Now, clearly they have moved to the forefront.
SIDNER (voice-over): Tonight, National Guard troops in Ferguson and more local police patrolling the streets after the city fell into chaos. As Michael Brown's family called for peaceful protests, his mother appealed to the crowd.
LESLEY MCSPADDEN, MICHAEL BROWN'S MOTHER: I've been here my whole life. I ain't never have to go through nothing like this.
SIDNER: Followed by this angry outburst from Brown's stepfather.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Burn this mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED) down!
SIDNER: Across the city, stores did burn. Buildings looted, a night of outrage.
CHIEF JON BELMAR, ST. LOUIS COUNTY POLICE: What I've seen tonight is probably much worse than the worst night we ever had in August.
SIDNER: The protests channeling a deep sense of anger about both the outcome of the grand jury and the manner in which the investigation was handled.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just think it's very sick. Very sick.
SIDNER: The attorney for the Brown family echoing that outrage.
BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL BROWN'S FAMILY: A first-year law student would have done a better job of cross-examining the killer of an unarmed person than the prosecutor's office did.
SIDNER: Some 61 arrests were made overnight, many from Ferguson and the St. Louis community.
CHIEF SAM DOTSON, ST. LOUIS POLICE: While we support everybody's right to come out and have their voices heard, you'll see a large police presence, and when crime starts, you'll see us in intervention much more quickly than you did last night.
SIDNER: And as law enforcement officials prepare for the worst, members of the community here are dealing with the fallout.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We definitely have done something here that is going to impact our community for a long time.
SIDNER: There is absolutely plenty of frustration from some of the residents here we've spoken to and some of the business owners we've spoken to. The biggest worry now is, will the businesses come back? This community will be hurting economically for sure with all of the burnt-out buildings and the jobs that have been lost -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We see those National Guard troops behind you. Sara, why weren't they deployed in massive numbers last night? They knew this was coming.
SIDNER: Right. But, you know, the governor himself had said that they were going to be playing a different role, that their role was going to be to protect, for example, the command center and that they wouldn't be in the front, on the front lines. That would be taken care of by several of the police departments who had come together to form a command, including St. Louis County. And they were out in force.
And something that someone was talking to me about, they said, "Well, what were they going to do differently?" I mean, a lot of concern about how they would have done things differently, Wolf, because as you noticed, there were large vehicles blocking the street. Over time the police trying to push people back, especially on West Florissant.
But they are certainly front and center now, at least here at the Ferguson Police Department, stationed here to protect the department itself, Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, they've clearly learned from the blunder of last night. They should have been out there last night. They weren't. But they will be out there tonight. They're going to try to fix it. We'll see what happens.
Sara, thanks very much.
Burning, looting, rock throwing, tear gas. CNN's Don Lemon was in the middle of all of it last night. You saw him live here on CNN. He's been out on the streets of Ferguson all day. He was at the news conference with Michael Brown's family earlier in the day, and Don is joining us right now.
Don, the family today remains furious about how all of this was handled. I know it's very tense right now. Before we get into the family, let's talk about the National Guard. You see those guys. There are 2,000 of them ready to patrol the streets. Do you have a better answer of why they didn't decide to patrol -- why they didn't give the order last night?
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, we don't. We got the guidance, as you did, all the media from the governor last night that those National Guard would be out and they would be patrolling and also that they would be protecting the Ferguson Police Department. And that's where we saw so much chaos last night as we were out here.
Not exactly sure where they were. A lot of the people who were saying, you know, "We don't need this over-militarized look here. We don't need the National Guard in Ferguson, in the St. Louis area." And they were saying that. And then last night, after all of that unrest, people were wondering, "Oh, my gosh, where is the National Guard?"
So now the National Guard, a wanted entity, and as you see from our viewpoint here, the National Guard is here.
Just a couple of minutes ago -- probably about 20 minutes ago, two -- I think it was three buses of them drove up, and about 200 of them got out. And now they are guarding the Ferguson Police Department.
Where they were last night, you know, I don't know. It's our understanding that they were protecting federal buildings and landmarks in the city of St. Louis rather than being in Ferguson. And we're also told that the mayor of Ferguson was wondering, "Where is the National Guard? My city is burning. I don't see them anywhere."
BLITZER: And you saw all of those businesses, family-owned businesses, mom-and-pop stores, whether a cleaner's, whether a beauty salon, whether a 7-Eleven-type store, you saw all of those burnt out, destroyed, looted. And these people are really suffering as a result of that.
LEMON: They are. And your heart can't help but go out to them. When we were back here in August, a lot of people lost business because they were just afraid of the possibility of something happening.
Now something real has happened. Instead of being afraid of the possibility, they have, lost many of them, their livelihoods. And so now they have nothing to go to. They don't know how they're going to pay their bills. They don't know how they're going to get their businesses back open and running if they want to do that again. So the message about injustice, about how to fix the problems with the
police department and the community, about over-militarization of the police departments, about profiling, about all of that, about police brutality, that has been overshadowed by people who chose to loot and burn and to put these people out of their livelihoods. It's really sad.
And we drove through, Wolf, some areas that had not been touched by violence the last time we were here, and as we were -- as we were driving to the police department or driving to the family press conference today, we were actually surprised to see so many businesses being boarded up, so many businesses with bashed-out windows, and so many businesses that had been burnt out. It's awful.
BLITZER: It certainly is. All right, Don, I know you're going to be with us throughout the next two hours. So stand by. The Ferguson mayor says his city simply did not get the help it so desperately needed last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR JAMES KNOWLES, FERGUSON, MISSOURI: Unfortunately, as the unrest grew and further assistance was need, the National Guard was not deployed in enough time to save all of our businesses. The decision to delay the deployment of the National Guard is deeply concerning. We're asking that the governor make available and deploy all the necessary resources to prevent the further destruction of property and the preservation of life in the city of Ferguson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So what's going to happen tonight? And we're bracing for more of what happened last night.
Let's bring in our justice reporter, Evan Perez.
Evan, the mayor doesn't sound, obviously, very pleased with what he heard from the governor. Clearly, there was a major blunder someplace. You were at the news conference that the prosecutor gave last night. The governor simply said it was up to the prosecutor to decide the timing of the release of all of that information. The governor, Jay Nixon, he walked away from that decision. That was clearly a pretty awful decision to release the information, no indictment, 8 p.m. Central Time, 9 p.m. Eastern.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you know, what you see is really like passing the buck today. You have the mayor of Ferguson, whose city was burning, saying that he was on the phone trying to get the governor to send the National Guard in. He says he hasn't talked to the governor of Missouri since August, and you know, his city has seen these protests all along these last couple of months. So then you also have the governor basically blaming the prosecutor for having no communication.
What this -- what last night really has exposed is how, behind the scenes, all of these officials who are supposed to be working together are really are not. They -- really, they have been fighting. They've been trying to determine, you know, who gets to blame for whatever happens next. They've been trying to oust the police chief of Ferguson, as you know, Wolf.
And you know, you have all of these people who are basically supposed to be trying to make sure that this community is protected, and really last night the whole plan they had to get -- put together fell apart.
BLITZER: And the prosecutor in this particular case, Robert McCulloch, he's standing by his decision. No charges, no indictment. No probable cause to go forward. So what's been the reaction over there in the legal circles and federal circles, Justice Department circles, based on what you're hearing, Evan?
PEREZ: Well, Wolf, you know, the issue is, you know, the best chance of any -- of any type of case against Officer Wilson really stood with the state. The bar is even higher for the federal government and their civil rights investigation.
So one of the things you're seeing happening now, Wolf, is that the attorney general and the Justice Department and I think the Obama administration, are trying to send a message that, you know, look, if you don't get a case against this officer, there's no prosecution of this officer, perhaps what the community can take solace in is that there's going to be reform of the police department, perhaps; reform of the Ferguson Police Department, and better policing, also, from St. Louis County for these communities, which really don't feel protected.
BLITZER: Evan, stand by. We're going to come back to you. I know you're working your sources. We'll get more information.
We see those National Guard troops. A couple of thousand now ready to be deployed in the coming hours. We're going to see what happens. Let's go in depth right now.
Joining us, the president and CEO of the National Urban League, the former New Orleans mayor, Marc Morial.
Mayor, thanks very much for joining us. You're there in Ferguson right now, and you know a lot about what's going on. Do you believe justice was served?
MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: Justice was not served, and the handling of the grand jury, from dumping 50 to 60 witnesses into the grand jury to the prosecutor not offering the recommendation to the grand jury with respect to an indictment to the release of the decision at 9 p.m. with a 20-minute rambling speech just points to the fact that the process around the state investigation was deeply flawed. So we're deeply disappointed.
However, I'm heartened that Attorney General Holder has indicated that his own investigation, that the Justice Department's civil rights investigation will continue on it is own independent track.
And I would remind everyone that in cases in the past, whether it's the Danziger case in New Orleans, the Rodney King case, or the Abner Louima case, every one of those cases involved a federal prosecution, which was successful after a failed state investigation.
So this is important, as well as the track that the attorney general outlined with respect to a pattern and practice investigation of the Ferguson Police Department. So this is not over.
But it was curious that the grand jury process deviated from what many of us denote was a standard approach to how a prosecutor confronts a grand jury.
BLITZER: Mayor, I want you to stand by. We're only getting started. We have several more questions we want to pose to you. You're there. You met with the family, Michael Brown's family, the attorneys for the family. You were at that news conference.
We see the deployment now of a couple National Guard troops. They're getting ready. There you see them right there. Batons, shields. They're worried about what's going on. These young men and women, they are about to go out to the streets of Ferguson and in the area to try to prevent the disaster that occurred last night.
Much more on the breaking news right after this.
BLITZER: Take a look at this. We're showing you some live pictures from Baltimore, also from Atlanta. We're going to put them up. The demonstrations are just beginning in those cities, other cities around the United States right now. A lot of frustrated, angry people as a result of that grand jury decision. No indictment of the police officer in the death of Michael Brown.
We're back with the president and CEO of the National Urban League, Marc Morial. And also joining us, the Reverend Tracy Blackman of the Christ the King United Church of Christ. She's a member of the Ferguson commission looking into the conditions behind all of the unrest.
And as we're getting ready to speak, we're also showing our viewers the National Guard troops. Two thousand of them are about to be deployed onto the streets of Ferguson in the area to try to prevent what happened last night.
And Reverend Blackman, it seems like there was so much warning; so much advance word; weeks and weeks of speculation maybe there wouldn't be an indictment. Yet the community, the area around Ferguson seemed so unprepared last night. What happened?
REV. TRACY BLACKMAN, CHRIST THE KING UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST: Wolf, I believe that the area was unprepared, and I lay the full accountability of that at the feet of prosecuting attorney Bob McCulloch.
Many, many of us led by clergy, as a matter of fact -- and I know this because I am one -- have been imploring Bob McCulloch for a while now to just give us a process, to let us know what will be the method whereby he will disclose the decision of the grand jury. We first began by asking for a special prosecutor. The governor had
at one point the ability to do that, because he had previously declared a state of emergency. He chose not to do that.
And in the system, working with the prosecutor that we have, we implored upon him to just give us a schedule. The benefit of that schedule would have been that we would have been allowed to prepare adequately to challenge the energy that would come from whatever the decision was in fruitful and productive ways.
Because he refused to tell us how he was going to release. What I mean by that is, all we were asking is, tell us, when you have a decision, what will be your process? Will we get 48 hours' notice? Will we get 24 hours' notice? Will we get 12 hours' notice?
And this was important, Wolf. Because it would have allowed us to prepare families to decide where they wanted their children to be when this announcement was made. It would have allowed us, to our leaders in the community to try to format some large way of protests or celebration or whatever it was going to be. So that the community would be channeled -- the energy would be channeled in a way that the community could be protected to the best of our ability.
In my opinion, prosecuting attorney Bob McCulloch removed that possibility from us. So yes, we knew a decision was coming, but we got less than 24 hours' notice. It was too late to do anything but the things that we could do ahead of time, such as prepare safe spaces and safe sanctuaries. So I blame him for the lack of coordination that happened last night.
BLITZER: And his argument was that he wanted to wait until the schools were out, the stores were closed, and then he would make the announcement. That was the argument he made last night, although a lot of us thought that it was a mistake to release that information late into the evening, 8 p.m. already dark there in Ferguson, 9 p.m. here on the East Coast.
BLACKMAN: May I pose a question to you?
BLITZER: Go ahead.
BLACKMAN: May I pose a question to you about that, Wolf?
BLACKMAN: I can go with that argument, but schools are out on Saturday. Schools are out all day.
BLITZER: You make a fair point. I didn't like that -- as soon as we reported at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 12:30 Central yesterday, that a decision had been reached -- our own Evan Perez, our justice reporter, he broke that story. And then we were told it's probably not going to be made public until the evening. I immediately went on the air, and I said, "I think that's a mistake. It's going to cause a lot of problems." You don't have to be a genius to know that, by the way. I want to bring in the mayor, the former mayor of New Orleans, Marc
Morial, the head of the National Urban League, into this conversation. Because passions were really inflamed. There was a lost anger out there.
Listen to what Michael Brown's stepfather -- he says what he said last night, he regrets it now, but clearly he was so angry. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Y'all murdered her (EXPLETIVE DELETED) son.
Burn this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) down. Burn this bitch down. Give me the mic. Give me the mic. Burn this bitch down. Burn this bitch down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. So you heard those really angry, nasty, bitter words, Mayor. You met with the family today; you met with the family's lawyer. I just want to know, does he regret those really awful words?
MORIAL: Well, we -- so it's important. Those were the statements of his stepfather. We were today with his father. His father participated in our press event with Ben Crump, who is representing the family. And I know those statements were inappropriate. But certainly borne of the emotion of the moment. So if he backtracked on that, that's good.
Because I believe that Michael Brown's father, with whom he lived, has made it abundantly clear that the way to respect the memory of Michael Brown is not to engage in violence, not to engage in destruction of property, not to engage in any of those activities.
And I think the reverend certainly knows, because she's been a part of the effort to organize and prepare people for a peaceful, organized appropriate response to the grave disappointment surrounding the grand jury decision.
But we've got to continue with this advocacy of justice because of the grand jury federal investigation that is impending, and this is just a step along the road.
I'm hopeful and let me be perfectly, abundantly and absolutely clear, that the National Urban League, and I believe those civil rights organizations who have been involved, community-based organizations that have been involved out here, disassociate themselves with any of the violence that's taking place. That's not part of the plan. That's not part of the strategy. Those are the actions of provocateurs.
BLITZER: Marc Morial, thanks very much, as usual, for joining us.
MORIAL: Thanks, Wolf. BLITZER: Reverend Blackman, thanks to you, as well.
Let me just be clear: I don't know if the stepfather regrets having said those awful remarks last night. I assume he does, but I don't know for sure that he does.
We're going to continue to watch what's going on, including the couple thousand National Guard troops that are now being readied to be deployed on the streets of Ferguson to try to prevent what happened last night.
Also coming up, the officer, Darren Wilson, we're going to get his side of the story. We'll examine his grand jury testimony. Also, the very brief fatal encounter he had with Michael Brown.
So was justice served? Brown's family attorney say the grand jury transcripts prove the process was designed to protect the police officer, Darren Wilson. Our legal experts are standing by to break it all down.
You're watching THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Standing by to hear from the president of the United States. There's a live picture coming in from Chicago.
We're told now the president will begin his remarks shortly by addressing the very awful situation that has developed in Ferguson, Missouri. He spoke out last night at the White House, trying to appeal for calm across the country. Certainly, his words were not necessarily heeded in the Ferguson area, where we saw fires, we saw looting, we saw awful situations, a lot of violence develop.
The president will make a strong appeal once again for calm tonight. The National Guard troops are now getting ready. They're going to be deployed on the streets of Ferguson.
We're also standing by live for another news conference from what's called the unified command. Members of the police, the local state authorities, they're going to brief us on how they're getting ready for what could be another ugly night in Ferguson.
You're looking at live pictures coming in from Ferguson right now. How are they going to deal with the potential violence that once again could erupt? And everyone is nervous that what happened last night could be repeated. We hope that doesn't happen, but it could be repeated tonight.
So those two events -- the president of the United States and the unified command presence -- you'll see it here, live coverage coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Meanwhile, dozens of people testified, but the police officer, Darren Wilson's, testimony was clearly crucial to the grand jury's decision not to indict him. Our Brian Todd has been pouring over the transcript which has been released by the prosecutor. Brian is joining us now.
Brian, give us your analysis.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Officer Wilson's testimony is compelling and controversial.
Tonight, it gives us new details on Wilson's claims to the grand jury about how he felt in different moments that his life was in danger. It also brings out how this fateful confrontation had so many dramatic moments that all played out in a matter of seconds.
TODD (voice-over): He didn't have a Taser, had never fired his gun on duty before. But in what he says was less than a minute, his confrontation with Michael Brown would leave Brown dead on the street.
In his grand jury testimony, Officer Darren Wilson says the incident began when he heard a radio call about a theft in progress. He claims when he drove to the area he saw Michael Brown and Dorian Johnson walking down the middle of the street. Quote, "I said, 'Why don't you guys walk on the sidewalk?'"
He says Michael Brown eventually replied, "'F' what you have to say." The officer tells the grand jury he twice tried to open his squad car door and twice he says Brown slams it shut. Then...
ROBERT MCCULLOCH, ST. LOUIS COUNTY PROSECUTOR: Several witnesses described seeing an altercation in the car between Mr. Brown and Officer Wilson. It was described as tussling, wrestling, a tug-of-war or just some movement.
TODD: Wilson describes it as Brown hitting him several times, landing at least two blows to his face. Wilson testifies, "I felt like a 5- year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan." Wilson says he didn't think he could grab his mace, his stick, or his flashlight in time.
He says, quote, "I felt that another one of those punches in my face could knock me out or worse." Wilson says he draws his gun, tells Brown to get back or he'll shoot. Quote, "He immediately grabs my gun and says, 'You're too much of an expletive to shoot me.'"
Wilson says Brown had the gun pointed at Wilson's hip. Describing Brown's face, Wilson says, it looks like a demon.
After a struggle, Wilson fires his gun twice inside the car. Brown, he says, takes off running. Wilson gives chase. Wilson says Brown stops and turns. Quote, "And when he looked at me, he made like a grunting." In a crucial part of the testimony, Wilson says Brown's left hand goes into a fist and goes to his side. Quote, "His right one goes under his shirt in his waistband and he starts running at me."
But grand jury witness Piaget Crenshaw sees it differently. PIAGET CRENSHAW, WITNESS: What I saw was his hands go up and
whatever, whoever other witnesses would like to say that his hands were down by his side or up in the air or curved, even perpendicular, whichever way, his hands were still visible in a manner you could tell he was unarmed. So at that point, wherever his hands were, you could tell he was unarmed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unarmed?
CRENSHAW: Unarmed. And he was shot.
TODD: Wilson says he fires a total of 12 shots, two inside the car, ten at Brown outside. He says in those last seconds, when Brown is 8 to 10 feet away from him, quote, "All I see is his head, and that's what I shot. I saw the last one go into him. And then when it went into him, the demeanor on his face went blank. When he fell, he fell on his face."
TODD: Michael Brown died about 150 feet away from Wilson's squad car. Prosecutor Robert McCulloch said some people claiming to be eyewitnesses who first said Michael Brown was shot in the back later changed their stories when the autopsies revealed that Brown had not sustained any wounds to the back of his body -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Brian, stand by. I want to go to Ferguson right now. This is Ron Johnson speaking out on getting ready for potentially a night of violence in Ferguson.
CAPT. RON JOHNSON, MISSOURI HIGHWAY PATROL: That was not fair to this community or this nation, and tonight we will do everything to make sure that does not happen or repeat itself. Like the chief talked about, we have to make sure that this stops. The law of averages. We don't want anyone seriously hurt or no one injured.
You asked a question about the clergy. As you know that I've been led by faith throughout this. And last night I said that the voice of the clergy was not being followed. It wasn't that that voice was not attempted to be spoken. The crowd was not listening.
We have to listen to the voice of reason and the voice of our faith and those things that drive us to be better. We will continue to make this community safe, the property is safe and the rights and the freedom that we have are maintained. So we'll open ourselves up to any questions you may have for myself or the chief.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chief, have you had a chance to adequately assess where the missteps or miscalculations that were made last night?
JOHNSON: I would say we're always assessing and we're going to make sure to ensure that we have a better night tonight than we did last night. But I can tell you, the men and women of law enforcement did an outstanding job last night and showed a lot of character.
But we are assessing last night and like we said, we look at every day as a new day, and we adjust our operational plans.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you tell us why the National Guard was not deployed last night? There were 700 last night; 2,200 are going to be out there tonight. That's still a significant number and the promise of being out there was to protect property.
JOHNSON: And they were out there. I think the governor talked earlier. More than 700 guardsmen out, and we had them in those places that we thought were appropriate.
But last night the rioters and those that are stuck on violence did some things to our community that we all couldn't have woke up this morning imagining.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chief, is that homicide relating to the rioting?
CHIEF JON BELMAR, ST. LOUIS COUNTY POLICE: At this point, I certainly couldn't discount that. I would imagine that there's some sort of a nexus there. I can't comment yet regarding cause of death or manner of death or anything like that. I just don't know those things.
You know, I think somebody just talked about the word, you know, mistakes from last night. I think, like Captain Johnson said, I'm not sure they were mistakes. These officers worked tremendously hard under a very difficult situation to exercise a lot of restraint and tried to keep everybody safe.
Again, I'd like to underscore the fact that there are certain folks out there and, fortunately, it's a small fraction but if there are certain folks out there that really want to cause problems, it is very difficult to impact that at times.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chief, what do you think about the decision to bring in more National Guard soldiers?
BELMAR: I welcome it. I really do. I think it's going to cause us to use some of our police officer assets, guys that wear badges, to do the jobs that they need to do, have that frontline interaction with folks. And I think it will free up our law enforcement assets to be able to react a little more effectively to different dynamics.
Again, we had a situation in August, remember, that we were, what, seven, eight, nine blocks? And last night we saw this over perhaps four square miles. So there is a more of a challenge when that happens.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) as an excuse to take property and damage property.
BELMAR: Yes. You know, it is frustrating, because I feel like that certain individuals are taking advantage of not only the business owners, for example, but they're taking advantage of the community and, in many ways, of Mr. Brown's life and legacy. I mean, you know, this almost has to turn into something good.
Otherwise, an 18-year-old man lost his life for nothing. And I think it cheapens it when we look at the criminal activity that spun out of this.
JOHNSON: A lot of our residents called us this morning. I've talked to a lot of them, and they woke up in tears this morning. They woke up, and they were heartbroken. So we've hurt -- we've hurt this community in ways that it's going to take a long time to heal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gentlemen, can you talk a little bit about deployment of the National Guard? I'm not trying to get any tactical -- tactical information, but in St. Louis they were deploying guards in small pockets in a number of different areas to protect looting. And I'm wondering if you've laid out a plan for use of the guard and, also, to whom does the guard listen? Are they all under unified command? Who are they taking orders from and who -- who is giving orders?
JOHNSON: We're not going to talk from an operational approach about how we will use the guard, but they will be used as a resource. Major Johnson of the highway patrol is actually working with the guard commanders on deployment of those. And we'll ask for those resources, and he will communicate with the guard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But do they fall under unified command's control or do they fall under national command or control?
JOHNSON: They will fall under unified command once they report.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chief Belmar (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
JOHNSON: Well, I think if you saw both of us here last night, if you did not see the pain in our faces, the pain in our voices, you know that we did not let that happen. If you saw those law enforcement officers stood out there last night and saw the disagreement and despair in their voices and their face. So no, we did not let that happen.
And once again, this is the community I live in. This is the community that the chief grew up in. No, we did not let that happen. We're going to do everything we can tonight to make sure that that doesn't continue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have three more questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
BELMAR: Listen, we had information and we've seen in the past that the Ferguson police station has really been a target. It's kind of been the new ground zero in many ways. So we could anticipate pretty easily that we're going to have some issues there.
And I think it's very difficult, then, to take a guess on where else we might have problems, for example. So I was a little bit surprised with the issues on West Florissant Road. We had a plan for that. But I think part of what we're talking about here, we talk about, did
we let things happen? Certainly not. But please keep in mind that at certain times, there's not a lot we can do about any given thing other than try to maintain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's where all the trouble was in August. Could you not have predicted that would ground zero again?
BELMAR: Well, we did had problems in August there and we've had problems since up on Florissant Road. So, again, we did predict that. At the same time, it's a lot more difficult to manage here on West Florissant based on the lay of the land. So I appreciate your question, I understand, but I assure you these guys were doing the very best that they possibly could. One more question?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chief, can you again address the fire response? Was there any time or any window during last night when fire trucks were ordered not to go in there because of gunfire? And what was that window?
BELMAR: Right. What happened is when they were down at the public storage lot, they were fighting that fire, but they had to back off because of gunfire at that point. And I would imagine that that really wasn't a command, necessarily to happen, these things just kind of occur, they pull out. And then after that, the commanders on the ground, who were actually here on West Florissant, they realized they couldn't maintain West Florissant for fire service to come in for a period of time. And then they were finally able to move to the north and get the fire service in here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that standard protocol for police to secure a scene before firefighters are able to go in there?
BELMAR: Right. And that really is standard protocol. And typically the fire service won't come in to any of our scenes until it's 100 percent secure. So those are things that are challenges of ours. We're polishing and cleaning this up every bit of the way but, again, we're looking forward to hopefully a peaceful night. Thank you.
JOHNSON: I think we should all say that the firemen showed great bravery last night going into those areas where there was gunfire. Thanks.
BLITZER: All right, that's Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol and the St. Louis County police chief Jon Belmar trying to explain -- they are arguing they did as good of a job as they possibly could last night but clearly it was not a very good job based on the results of what we saw.
Jeffrey Toobin, very quickly, give me your reaction to what we just heard?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think those people are in denial. It's just astonishing that the chief could sit there and say I didn't think mistakes were made. That was a success? Looters running wild, setting fires to cars, hardly anyone arrested? That's a success? I mean, it is just astonishing to me that even in the face of such a systemic failure they could think that this was anything but a disaster.
And you have the governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon, who was apparently in the witness protection program, invisible and not taking responsibility for his state on fire. It's just amazing to me.
BLITZER: Yes. It's pretty amazing. All right, stand by, Jeffrey. We're going to have full analysis of what's going on.
Will those looters, those who started fires, those who stole from stores, will they be charged? Will they be prosecuted? There's a lot of videotape out there. Will the police go after them or forget about it? Stand by.
Night now falling in Ferguson, Missouri. Will the area face a new round of violence? Authorities are out in force. They clearly are bracing for trouble. You're looking at live pictures of the National Guard troops. They are leaving their command center; they're heading to the streets. They are fully prepared. Look at the shields. Look at the masks. They're getting ready. Let's hope it's quiet but they're worried it won't.
BLITZER: All right, let's a dig a little deeper. Once again joining us, our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, our legal analyst Sunny Hostin, and CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes; he's a former FBI assistant director.
Tom, what did you think of what we just heard from the St. Louis County police chief, from Ron Johnson, the captain from the Missouri Highway Patrol, saying, you know, basically saying they did a great job last night although we saw the ends result?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFROCEMENT ANALYST: I completely agree with Jeff Toobin. That was ridiculous. They lost the streets. And they're fighting a handful or a couple handfuls of hoodlums that showed up interspersed with the protesters, and let these hoodlums loot, burn businesses, ruin people's livelihoods and make it sound like nothing happened. And I think that, to me, what happened is they were so severely criticized in August. Oh, they looked mean. They were in riot gear. They caused the riot because they looked ferocious. And now they back off and try to be kinder and gentler and, guess what? They have a riot because they don't prevent it.
BLITZER: Do you think, Sunny, they're going to go after these looters, these arsonists? There's a lot of videotape. We see people going into that liquor store, for example, breaking the windows, running out carrying boxes of stolen beer, whiskey, whatever they're carrying. Are they going after these people and prosecute them?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think that's doubtful. I think it's going to be difficult to identify people, track people down. And I don't think that's where their efforts are best spent at this point. And I have got to agree with Tom and Jeff. I mean, I was here last
night at what is the sort of command center for law enforcement, this sort of uniform command center. And it was only until very late into the evening, after everything had erupted, Wolf, right behind me, that we started seeing convoys of vehicles, police vehicles, humvees, armored cars, coming in and out. And so it just seems they were ill prepared for what happened.
And it seems so shocking, quite frankly, because we know that it was announced around noon that the grand jury reached the decision. And then, you know, law enforcement had about eight hours before the announcement was heard by the public. And I think it was really just negligent for the announcement to have taken eight hours and to be announced in the evening. Anyone in law enforcement with any kind of law enforcement background knows that it's very difficult to control crowds in the dark. So just all around, it was a fail.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, what was shocking to me is that the governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon, when he was asked who picked the time for the release of the grand jury decision, he said the prosecutor, the St. Louis County prosecutor. He walked away from it. I have nothing to do with it. And that's that. That sounds ridiculous to me.
TOOBIN: Perhaps the most fateful decision of his entire governorship -- that's what Jay Nixon will be remembered for. How his state erupted into riots on his watch and his response is some local prosecutor made the decision. He's supposed to be the governor of the state. He's invisible. He's apparently incompetent. And the result is for everyone to see.
And, by the way, those poor cops who were forced to deal with it. It's because of incompetence of their leadership. It's those cops' lives in danger. They're the ones outnumbered by these criminals and hoodlums. If these people had just been arrested at the start, the cops would have been in a lot less danger. So I certainly don't blame the cops. They're the victims of the incompetence at the top of law enforcement in Missouri.
BLITZER: Tom, very quickly.
FUENTES: Just exactly right. I had to stand in front of the Nazis who were protesting in the '70s when I was a street cop. And Jeffrey is right. Those cops are in danger and it's ridiculous, the lack of leadership to protect them and put enough people out there to protect the community, protect the protesters and protect the police.
BLITZER: That was in Skokie, Illinois?
FUENTES: No, they never did march in Skokie. It was in suburbs around Chicago. I was on an all-star team of cops when --
BLITZER: We're going to have all of you stand by. Coming up, as night falls in Ferguson, there are more fears of more violence following a grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer. Stand by for more breaking news.