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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Pilot Flies in Restricted Airspace, Lands at U.S. Capitol; Ex- Patriots Player Found Guilty Of Murder; Iraqi Official: Key City Completely Under Siege By ISIS. Aired 7-8:00p ET
Aired April 15, 2015 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:09] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, breaking news, a major security breach in Washington, D.C. A gyro copter flies undetected, unchallenged, through the world's most restricted air space, landing outside the capitol. The copter visible from the White House as it approached. How could this happen?
Plus, a former NFL star Aaron Hernandez guilty of murder, sentenced to life in prison. No chance of parole. He was on camera as the verdict was read. Mouthing "you're wrong."
And more breaking news. ISIS fighters in a siege of a major city. Will the United States intervene? An exclusive report from the ground OUTFRONT tonight. Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, we begin with the breaking news. Chaos in the capitol. A gyrocopter pierces America's most restricted airspace landing outside the United States capitol. The capitol was locked down, police were racing through the halls in fear for the lives of hundreds of lawmakers. It was a one- man piloted copter and it landed near the spot where the Christmas tree every year stands. The pilot had been reportedly flying for about 45 miles an hour. Now, he was quickly arrested. But here's the thing. He had flown through restricted air space for hours undetected and unchallenged. And the big question tonight is, how could this happen? How could a man fly into the teeth of the most heavily protected air space in the world and get away with it? The pilot, Doug Hughes, is a Florida postal worker. His mission he said was a peaceful protest, something he reportedly had been planning for years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUG HUGHES, GYROCOPTER PILOT: I don't believe that the authorities are going to shoot down a 60-year-old mailman in a flying bicycle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Well, despite jokes from lawmakers that they were under attack from a flying lawn chair, the security breach is not a joke. And it's a major failure by several government agencies, a wakeup call on how easily a terrorist or drone could have done the exact same thing, causing untold damage.
Tom Foreman begins our coverage at the capitol tonight right near where that gyrocopter landed. I mean, Tom, you know, this is stunning, what happened?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, the investigators are trying to figure it out right now. One of the things they're doing is looking at the flight pattern of this. They've been looking up at Gettysburg Airport in Pennsylvania, which is some 68 miles by air away from him if you went in a straight line. They believe he may have taken off from there, but they're trying to nail that down, as well as his path through. As you pointed out, some of the most protected air space not just in this country but in the world. Asking how at this very slow speed and low altitude it was able to get through all these defenses and land right behind me -- Erin.
HUGHES: I'm not suicidal. And I'm not going to commit suicide. And I'm not going to fly into any monuments. Terrorists don't announce their flights before they take off. Okay? Terrorists don't broadcast their flight path. Terrorists don't invite an escort to go along with them.
FOREMAN (voice-over): That video and his website show in great detail what Hughes was planning. How he was preparing to be both a pilot and protester in those final moments.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: This is not good people!
FOREMAN: As captured in this exclusive video obtained by the Associated Press.
HUGHES: I'm going to violate the no-fly zone. I intend for nobody to get hurt. And I'm going to land on the capitol mall in front of the capitol building. I'm going to have 535 letters strapped to the landing gear in boxes. And those letters are going to be addressed to every member of Congress.
FOREMAN: Hughes, who was over 60, even speaks in the video about his fear of being intercepted by security forces, long before reaching the capitol.
HUGHES: I don't believe that the authorities are going to shoot down a 60-year-old mailman in a flying bicycle. I'm going to give them plenty of warning, well over an hour in advance of me getting to the no-fly zone so that they know who I am and what I'm doing and that it's intended to be nonviolent.
FOREMAN: And in the end, even as the video shows him loading up his aircraft to bring it to Washington, he speaks with passion about what he sees as the need for this dramatic step. Arguing that in his eyes, no less than the fate of the nation rests in campaign finance reform.
HUGHES: I'd rather die in the flight than live to be 80-years- old and see this country fall.
(END VIDEOTAPE) FOREMAN: So, Erin, this is the astonishing thing. That video
was out there, produced by the Tampa Bay Times, an article with the Tampa Bay Times, the secret service had previously talked to him. And he says on his website he contacts numerous people right before he took off, and he expected to be intercepted. He thought that he might get shot down. At the very least he'd have helicopters flying alongside and none of that happened. As he said, Erin, at one point, a boy scout with a bb gun could have brought me down, and apparently there was not even that in play today. That's why tonight the questions about security and the air space of Washington, D.C. are so, so hot -- Erin.
[19:05:30] BURNETT: That's incredible. Tom Foreman, thank you very much. Not only did they not see it, but they were given warnings which they ostensibly completely ignored.
Rene Marsh is OUTFRONT from Washington as well. And Rene, what about this issue? So, Hughes flew through restricted air space, you know, for more than an hour. Hours possibly. Why was he able to do this? Why weren't jets scrambled? Why wasn't he shot down? Do we have any answers?
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, I spoke with NORAD today Erin and asked that very question, why weren't jets scrambled when it entered this hypersensitive area around the capitol? And NORAD tells me that they didn't get notification about this whole situation until it actually landed. So of course that would be too late. A law enforcement source also tells CNN that this gyrocopter did not show up on radar. So it is possible, and we don't know for sure, but it is possible that perhaps these agencies that are in charge of monitoring this air space didn't even realize it was coming. We don't know what altitude this gyrocopter was flying at. And it's possible if it was at a low enough altitude it was able to skirt radar. And not be detected.
BURNETT: Pretty scary. Because a drone could do that operated by a terrorist. I mean, this just opens all sorts of frightening possibilities. The Tampa Bay Times of course, which had been chronicling this, says it informed officials that this was going to happen. Right? So, to your point, maybe they didn't know it was there because they didn't see it, but they'd been told by the Tampa Bay Times. They knew about this guy a couple of years ago. But still wasn't enough. Do we know why they would perhaps have completely ignored all of those warnings?
MARSH: Right. So, the "Times" is reporting that even a friend alerted the Secret Service that this was going to happen today. We don't have any answer from the Secret Service at this hour as to what they did in response to that or why they didn't react. But what we do know is the FAA controls this air space, and no one told the FAA anything as far as asking for permission. In fact, the FAA told me today that no one contacted the air traffic control or no one else at the FAA authorized this sort of flight. So we know that permission was not granted, so this definitely happened and it shouldn't have. No one is allowed to fly in this hypersensitive area -- Erin. BURNETT: All right. Rene, thank you very much. And OUTFRONT
now, the "Tampa Bay Times" reporter Ben Montgomery who interviewed the pilot before his flight, live tweeted the event. To emphasize my point here, this was not a secret. Also with me, the former FBI Assistant Director Tom Fuentes.
Ben, let me just start with you to try to understand this a little bit more. The bottom-line is you knew about this, your paper knew about this, you've been chronicling this. You alerted them, the government. Were you surprised that Mr. Hughes got so close and no one tried to stop him until he was on the ground?
BEN MONTGOMERY, "TAMPA BAY TIMES" ENTERPRISE REPORTER: Let me just correct you on one thing, Erin. We alerted the Secret Service and the capitol police when he was in the air.
BURNETT: When he was in the air, so not before? Okay.
MONTGOMERY: Right. His flight time was expected to be depending on his tail wind, an hour or so. But beyond that, the Secret Service we know interviewed him and a co-worker who knew about the plan a year ago. And Doug told me, they seemed satisfied that he was nonviolent. His intention was never to hurt anybody. He wanted to deliver the mail, as he said. And you can see that gyro plane is transparent. It's wide open, weighs about 250 pounds. It may look like a helicopter but that rotor on top only spins when wind is blowing. It's not powered by any motor. So yes, the Secret Service, you know, knew in advance. And I was amazed that he made it. He was fully prepared to be blown out of the sky long before he ever entered protected air space.
BURNETT: Right. It's incredible. I know you were filming Mr. Hughes as he prepared for this trip, at the "Tampa Bay Times." How long did he spend building this contraption? I mean, when people look at this footage, right? I mean, this is a deadly serious story for the entire nation. Yet it's almost comical when you see the guy biking like the Wizard of Oz through the air. Before he landed at the capitol. You know, so mow much time did he spent? How sophisticated was this thing?
MONTGOMERY: It's a very simple craft. And so he didn't build it, he bought it, $5,500. He put about another $1,000 of parts into it. This is a sort of niche of the aviation community. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 people, he told me, fly these little crafts. But it's a very simple thing. You know? You got a propeller in the back that provides thrust, you got a propeller over top that provides your lift, and you travel at about 45 miles per hour tops, you know, from point A to point B.
BURNETT: It's pretty incredible. Tom, when you hear that, it is pretty stunning. When you think about how simple it is. How inexpensive it is relative to what people might think it would be to stage some sort of attack on the most protected air space in the country. If Hughes could fly through this air space without being stopped, when as Ben just said they actually called and warned the Secret Service when he took off, could a terrorist do it? Crash into the White House, drop a bomb? And it would seem anything is possible.
[19:10:58] TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: I think it would seem Erin that anything is possible. And I think that you know, the other problem with D.C. is that if you look at the White House area and the grounds around it that's protected by Secret Service uniform division. If you look at the capitol it's protected by the capitol police. The mall in between, the monuments, is protected by the U.S. park service. The rest of D.C., the metro police. You've got four major police agencies within about 16-block area. And whose area is it in the overall umbrella of the FAA. So five major agencies that are supposed to be controlling the ground and air in downtown Washington, and apparently this guy just flew and slipped through the cracks. So, if he could do it, yes, anybody could do it.
BURNETT: I mean, Tom, one of the terrifying things is, as Rene is reporting, they're saying, well, it didn't pick it up on radar. Well, a drone or something that could be carrying anthrax or some kind of deadly airborne virus or something would also then not be picked up on radar. No drone would be. I mean, a drone's already landed on the White House lawn for God's sake.
FUENTES: No, that's true. And we just had this plot about five years ago, where a guy had a model airplane capable of carrying 50 pounds, a jihadist, and he was going to fly it into the capitol dome with the idea that when the people came hurrying out of the dome, it wasn't going to do serious damage, but make a loud noise. When the people would come running out of the dome, he and fellow jihadists were going to gun them down with machine guns. That's where the plot unraveled and came to the attention of the FBI. The FBI were able to insert themselves and arrest this guy. So, this is not the first time a small aircraft was going to be known to approach the capitol. So, you would think there would be contingency security plans in place but we see no evidence of that. And at this point they're going to have a government press conference to say what they're going to do in the future. Who's going to hold the press conference? Who's in charge? Who's going to control it?
BURNETT: Right. They need to fix that and fix that now. Stop with the finger-pointing. All right. Ben, Tom, thank you very much, a pretty terrifying event.
OUTFRONT next, former football star Aaron Hernandez guilty of first-degree murder, life without parole is the sentence. So, does he have a chance on appeal? And what did he mouth as he heard the verdict? We actually saw that.
Plus, breaking news from ISIS. Closing in on a crucial city just outside Baghdad. They say it's completely under siege. Is this a game-changer for American troops?
And new details about the officer in this dash cam video who ran the suspect down with a cruiser. He's a former NYPD officer. He calls himself robo cop. His police chief will be my guest.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [19:17:14] BURNETT: The verdict is in for NFL star Aaron
Hernandez, guilty of cold-blooded murder. The sentence, life without parole. It's a shocking ending for a one-time superstar. He signed a $40 million contract to play football for the New England Patriots. Today only 30 miles from that stadium he was convicted for the murder of a former friend Odin Lloyd.
Susan Candiotti was there.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What say you, Madam Foreperson? Is the defendant not guilty, guilty of murder in the first degree, or guilty of murder in the second degree?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Guilty of murder in the first degree.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A grim-faced Aaron Hernandez on the final day of his long fall. In stark contrast to the man seen laughing and winking during the trial, today with his mother and fiance in tears, he shows almost no emotion. Except when he appears to mouth the words "you're wrong." A short time later --
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You're committed to the MCI Cedar Junction for the term of your natural life without the possibility of parole.
CANDIOTTI: At issue whether Hernandez was guilty of the 2013 execution-style murder of Odin Lloyd, shot six times. Central to the case, surveillance videos that show the victim on the night of his death getting into a rented Nissan Altima with Hernandez and two other men. Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz. They've pleaded not guilty and will be tried separately. Other videos show the same car driving to this industrial park in the early hours of the morning. Witnesses describe hearing loud noises like fireworks around that time. Then, just minutes later, a camera shows that Altima pulling into Hernandez's driveway. Although prosecutors say four people drove into the park, only three get out of the car at Hernandez's home. Hernandez's own surveillance cameras capture him holding what prosecutors say is the murder weapon. That .45-caliber glock was never found. The jurors meeting reporters after sentencing, saying this after learning Hernandez now faces trial for double murder in Boston.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: That we did the right thing.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We did the right thing.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Absolutely.
CANDIOTTI: Why Lloyd was killed remains unclear. Prosecutors say Hernandez was angry at Lloyd after partying at a nightclub two nights before the shooting. After the verdict a tearful Ursula Ward, Lloyd's mother, stood before the judge. But addressed her son's killer.
URSULA WARD, ODIN LLOYD'S MOTHER: I forgive the hands of the people that had a hand in my son's murder.
CANDIOTTI: During the verdict, it was a side of Aaron Hernandez that we had not seen before. He appeared stunned, so unlike the confident young man that we saw in court. With a smile and a wink all the time before the jurors would come in. This time he was turning to his mother and fiancee, watching them weep. But it appeared that his swagger came back a short time later. A source tells me that when jailers were leading him from the courthouse to prison, he told them, "They got it wrong, I didn't do it." The jury, Erin, apparently saw it differently -- Erin.
BURNETT: Susan Candiotti, thank you very much.
And joining me now, CNN legal analyst, former prosecutor Paul Callan, and criminal defense Attorney Danny Cevallos. All right. I want to take a look again at this reaction of this guilty verdict because, as Susan said, he had such swagger and arrogance during the trial, and you see him here with a little bit of a smirk. But then stunned as the word that she used. And as she just reported, he then later said, they got it wrong, I didn't do it. What's he thinking at that moment, Paul?
PAUL CALLAN, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, yes, I've been there at that moment from time to time. When someone's convicted of murder. And, you know, all of life is going to change for him. He's going to be dragged back to prison, he's going to live there for the rest of his life.
CALLAN: That's right. But, you know, I kind of disagree with the assessment that he looked stunned. I thought his demeanor was sort of flat. And it indicated to me that he is maybe a little bit psychopathic, he manipulates people through emotions. And classic psychopaths do that, that's how they commit crimes. I mean, a lot of people in murder cases, maybe you've seen it in too courtrooms.
CALLAN: You know, they cry, they look down, they -- I mean --
BURNETT: Well, you can't control your emotion no matter how much you try when you're told, you're not going to marry that woman, you're not going to have children. He just got his life taken away from him. You'd expect him to be unable to control --
CALLAN: He was laughing and smirking during the trial. Here, what do you see? Look at that look on his face. He's just -- it's flat. You know? It's bizarre.
BURNETT: Yes. But from the defense lawyer's perspective, obviously, he's now going to go on trial for a double homicide. It's possible this guy was -- obviously related to gangs but some sort of a serial killing going on. At the same time, how do you get to first- degree murder? And could they win this on appeal? Because they said, okay, four guys are in the car, three guys get out. How do they say first-degree murder, it's you and not one of the other two guys?
DANNY CEVALLOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Paul and I have been debating this all day, Erin. And if you look at the Massachusetts jury instructions, this jury convicted on a theory of what's called extreme atrocity. So, in other words, they didn't find that premeditation required for one alternate form of first-degree murder but instead that this was committed with extreme atrocity. When you look at the statute they can reach that conclusion even if they find an unintentional murder if he participated in some action that caused a substantial likelihood of death. Plus, the statutory --
[19:22:45] BURNETT: So, he doesn't have to be the one to pull the trigger? In other words, on appeal they don't have to just say, raise doubt as to whether he pulled the trigger. It doesn't matter which of those three guys pulled the trigger, he's still could get life in prison.
CALLAN: As long as he shared the intent with them to kill, then he's as guilty as they are. And under this atrocity section, if the murder took place with conscious suffering, if there were number of shots fired, there were six shots fired, one of the big moments in the trial by the way, was when the autopsy picture was shown where he had six wounds to his neck and his back. And also indifference to the crime, believe it or not, is an element. And what did he do after the killing? Went back to his house, started hanging around at the swimming pool with his kids and the other killers in the case, or alleged killers in the case indifference to the crime.
CEVALLOS: The jury said they arrived in different ways at the same conclusion. And that's probably what they meant.
BURNETT: Because it took them almost a week.
CEVALLOS: That's correct.
BURNETT: I was a bit surprised you come out with guilty of first degree, the most dramatic thing you could, and it takes you so long to get there.
CEVALLOS: But well, in a way -- it wasn't the most dramatic, because they didn't also find it was premeditated, they only found this atrocity version and I imagine that they arrived at that same place through those different forms of statutory atrocities, which are the indifference or some extreme overkill, basically. More force needed than would normally be needed to cause death.
CALLAN: There's a lot of evidence to though. I mean, there's a lot to go through. What? One hundred thirty one exhibits, I think and 30--
BURNETT: Jury did their job. They did go through evidence.
CALLAN: They worked hard. Yes.
BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to both of you.
And tonight, don't miss our CNN special "Downward Spiral: Inside The Case Against Aaron Hernandez." That is tonight at 9:00 right here on CNN.
And OUTFRONT next, ISIS attacking a major city just outside Baghdad. You've been hearing the U.S. government say that ISIS is on the retreat but this is a major city that could be about to fall into their control. Thousands fleeing. And the police officer driving this car, running down a suspect. Now being praised for his actions. Did he do the right thing? His boss the police chief is my guest tonight.
[19:28:48] BURNETT: Breaking news. A major city under siege about to fall to ISIS. Surrounded on all sides. This is according to an Iraqi official inside the city of Ramadi. Fierce fighting has invoke the city, it is just west of Baghdad. Only 70 miles.
Arwa Damon is on the ground tonight, she made her way towards Ramadi earlier. And Arwa, what did you see, how bad is it there now?
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's absolutely heartbreaking, Erin. As we were trying to make our way towards Ramadi we came across the throngs of people that were trying to escape the ISIS onslaught that began in the eastern part of the city. ISIS already had control of the north and the south. And according to that official in Ramadi, ISIS throughout the day steadily advancing towards the city center. From his perspective, to quote him directly, he said, I consider the city already to have fallen. He says that for days and weeks now he'd been begging the Iraqi government for reinforcements, asking for Iraqi air strikes, for coalition air strikes. But they did not materialize. This now a city under siege.
Upwards of 150,000 people had fled, he said. Some of those that we spoke to were still in complete shock. One older woman inside a cart, a metal cart, being pushed across, too tired to walk, just burst into tears when we went to speak with her. Another man that we spoke to described how ISIS fighters stormed into his house, didn't say a single thing to him, took up a sniper position on his rooftop, and he just grabbed his children, his wife, and ran out. In the middle of him telling this story, his wife also burst into tears when we went to speak with her. Another man that we spoke to described how ISIS fighters stormed into his house, didn't say a single thing to him, took up a sniper position on his rooftop, and he just grabbed his children, his wife, and ran out. In the middle of him telling this story, his wife also burst into tears.
It just shows you the sheer emotional toll this is taking on these people. And now with ISIS further in the city, it is only going to wreak more havoc on the civilian population, not to mention trying to begin pushing them out of Ramadi is going to be a much more difficult task right now, requiring street to street combat, requiring potentially air strikes within the city that is not going to just cause physical destruction in Ramadi, but also the very real threat of great civilian casualties and even more trauma for a population that has already been through so much, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Arwa Damon, thank you very much. The human side of this. So hard to imagine, so important to understand.
Jim Sciutto is OUTFRONT in Washington.
So, Jim, the story we keep hearing from Washington is ISIS is on its heels. You heard Arwa reporting, she's there on the ground, unlike a lot of the defense officials in Washington. And she says that the officials inside Ramadi are telling her the city has, quote- unquote, "already fallen."
This is pretty unbelievable.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, the U.S. military perspective is the city has not fallen. They say it's contested. U.S. airstrikes still under way to support Iraqi forces on the ground.
But the fact is, bigger picture-wise here, as we're coming up on nearly a year after ISIS advanced into Iraq, in many places the best that Iraqi security forces are doing is holding their ground, holding back ISIS from further advancing, as opposed to taking back territory.
Ramadi's been in contested -- at a contested situation for months now. And when you look at the bigger targets like Mosul, the second- largest city in all of Iraq, that operation by Iraqi security forces has been pushed pack to fall at the earliest. There's even talk of it being pushed back till next year.
So, that gives you a sense, Erin, that when U.S. officials and Iraqi officials talk about this being a war of years, not months, they are very right. And it's going to be months and possibly years until you see major pieces of territory claimed back by these Iraqi forces and that's with this major U.S.-led air campaign, it's with the training that U.S. military advisers are doing of Iraqi forces. It's going to be very slow going here.
And you're going to see setbacks. You're not going to see constant advance. Ramadi is still very precarious, even if it is contested.
BURNETT: All right. Jim Sciutto, thank you very much.
And right now, Retired General James "Spider" Marks is my guest, senior intelligence officer in combat during the Iraq.
General, my question to you is, the Iraqis in Ramadi are saying it's already fallen. Jim Sciutto is reporting some of the major offensive led by the U.S. coalition against ISIS delayed from spring to maybe fall to maybe next year. The U.S. government says ISIS is in retreat. It doesn't seem that way from the reporting on the ground. What
is the U.S. going to do about it? Just say this coalition's working? Or they're going to have put boots on the ground?
MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): I think the United States has already demonstrated what it intends to do. And you know, Erin, that is to provide what I would hope would be punishing air strikes as a matter of routine. Certainly, the pace and cadence of those air strikes could increase.
They are necessary but they're not sufficient. If the United States wants to try to end the spread of ISIS, they could do it. They could do it with the support of other countries in the region. But that would require, as we've all discussed, troops, soldiers on the ground, engaging with ISIS, destroying those targets. In very close combat. It's not going to happen as a result of the air campaign.
So, what Jim has described is absolutely correct. It's the new normal. I think what the United States has established and what the administration has established is, this is a intergenerational fight. We are probably not going to put boots on the ground. We're probably going to accept these horrible tragedies like we're seeing unfolding in Ramadi. These are human conditions that are really unacceptable. But we are going to have to stiffen our resolve that this is going to happen and that we're going to try to contain it. That's the reality that we're facing right now.
BURNETT: A pretty shocking report, and as Arwa reports, the human side of it, so important for people to understand.
Thank you very much, General.
OUTFRONT next, dramatic dash cam video of an armed suspect hit by a police car at high speed. The man's lawyer says it was the equivalent of shooting a client in the back. You see him walking away. Was it excessive force?
And our exclusive report on how body cameras and tasers can save lives and how things can go so horribly, horribly wrong.
[19:38:36] BURNETT: Tonight, we are learning more about the officer who used his car, his police cruiser, to take out a suspect in Arizona. The man who was hit, Mario Valencia, he survived.
The dash cam video I'm going to show you is very graphic. If you haven't seen it yet I want to make sure you have that warning. Here it is.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
BURNETT: The police department is defending officer's actions. The question is, was this excessive force or was it justifiable?
Sara Sidner is OUFRONT in Marana, Arizona, literally standing exactly where that police car hit the suspect tonight -- Sara.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You can see where he hit. There is still --
SIDNER (voice-over): The end was swift and stunning. Newly released dash cam video follows 36-year-old Mario Valencia on the morning of February 19th as he walks slowly down the street in a city neighboring Tucson.
OFFICER: It's definitely unlocked now. It's definitely loaded.
SIDNER: Police say Valencia spent the morning on a crime spree. 6:45 a.m., they charge Valencia robbed a 7-Eleven dressed in his underwear. An hour later, officials say he set fire to a church. After that, he allegedly broke into a home, stole a car, and then a rifle and ammunition from Walmart.
[19:40:00] Just a few minutes after 9:00 a.m., police catch up with him here. They say he pointed the rifle at them but didn't fire. As one cruiser moved to block Valencia's path, a warning.
OFFICER: Stand off, stand off. The gun is loaded.
SIDNER: But then, Officer Michael Rapiko (ph) chose not to stand off. Instead hitting th gas, and bearing down on Valencia.
Despite the impact the suspect survived with minor injuries. And after a hospital stay was released to police custody. Rapiko is a former NYPD and Tucson police officer who also works as a trainer at a gym. On his crossfit page, he calls himself Robocop.
The Marana police chief defended the officer's actions and told CNN that Valencia was headed to a heavily populated business district.
CHIEF TERRY ROZEMA, MARANA POLICE DEPARTMENT: Lethal force would have been justified in this situation. If we had had a sniper sitting on a roof, so whether it's a wrecking ball or with a car or a gun, the use of force was justified.
SIDNER: Police say at one point, Valencia put the gun to his throat and was acting erratic. His defense attorney is adamant there was a better way to deal with him than this.
MICHELLE COHEN-METZGER, PUBLIC DEFENDER FOR MARIO VALENCIA: They used lethal force against my client when he was not a threat to the officers and he was not a threat to the public. The only person he was a threat to at that point was himself. He was clearly suicidal.
SIDNER: The county attorney cleared the officer. But it was a dramatic end to a dangerous situation.
SIDNER: It is really hard to watch. The police chief himself said he had a hard time watching that as well.
I want to let you know where I am, I'm standing right where it happened. The suspect was hit just here. And he flew over that wall there. And the officer slammed into that concrete wall, which has not yet been fixed, certainly a dangerous situation.
And one of the witnesses here says the whole situation looked really crazed. It was frightening -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Sara, thank you very much. Standing, as I said, at the exact spot where this happened.
Joining me OUTFRONT, Chief Terry Rozema of the Marana Police Department.
Chief, thank you for being with us.
You know, Sara was just saying that you've described this as you find this video hard to watch, which I'm glad you admit, because anybody watching this just as a human, it is hard to watch it. My question to you though is, did your officer do the right thing? Is this what you trained him to do?
ROZEMA: Thanks for having me.
Yes, anybody who watches the video can't watch it without saying it's dramatic and it's horrific and all of those things. It takes your breath away the first time you see it. Did he do the right thing? And I think that's the question everybody wants to know and is asking.
And from my perspective, and I certainly have the benefit of reading all of the information, looking at all of the video, knowing all of the details behind the scene. And, you know, my conclusion after doing all that, knowing the mindset, knowing the direction that the officers were taking in this, and the actions that this guy and the danger that he posed to her community, he absolutely had to be stopped.
And so, I fully support, you know, the officers and how they handled the situation. Are there things that we could have done better? Are there things that we're going to learn from this? Absolutely. And all of that's on review and recommendations will be made at a future date.
BURNETT: So let me ask you, though, one of the crucial things. You heard the attorney for Mario Valencia. She said what your officer did is no different than shooting a suspect in the back.
Obviously, yes, this guy had a gun. But he drove up behind him, the guy wasn't even looking, right? And the guy's walking. He hit him from behind. She's obviously raising the specter of the video we showed for a brief instant there of that awful shooting in South Carolina.
But do you defend your officer's choice to hit him from behind? I mean, yes, he had a gun but he was walking away. He was calm. He wasn't running. Why go at high speed and hit him in the back?
ROZEMA: I certainly understand that perspective. But it's a very skewed perspective and a wrong perspective for this reason. Even shooting a suspect in the back, walking away, with a high-powered rifle, would have been warranted in that situation.
And the reason it would have been warranted is because he's continuing failing to obey commands from an officer to stop and put down the gun. You don't have to do this. And he's going right into a heavily populated area.
So, any time you have a felonious situation where somebody poses a threat to other people, you have the right and even the obligation I would say to take action. The problem with allowing him to go further is we don't know what he intended to do. I don't think that we can get inside his mind and try and determine that.
So, the officers have to make a decision. You know, do you let him go another ten seconds? Then he's at the doorstep of one of the businesses.
And if he gets inside of one of the businesses or he gets to the parking lot and somebody's in one of the cars and he takes one of them hostage or shoots somebody, then we're answering the question, why didn't you do something sooner?
[19:45:05] My wife is dead, or my wife was taken hostage, or my husband or loved one was injured because you didn't do anything.
So, you know, it's kind of one of those double-edged swords. And I get it, it's a tough call. But the officer made the tough call. And, you know, I think he did the right thing here.
BURNETT: All right. Chief Rozema, thank you very much. You heard the chief say he supports his officer, he says he would have been justified if he had to shoot him in the back with a high-powered rifle or driving into him in the back. He said given the situation.
OUTFRONT next, the use of tasers by police forces across this nation. It's a multimillion dollar business. But here's the question: do tasers do anything? We have an exclusive report next.
And most Americans who favor legal marijuana say it's because of the weed's medicinal powers. But is marijuana safe or effective at treating anything?
[19:50:04] BURNETT: Tonight, two fatal shootings at the hands of police raising serious questions about excessive force and the use of tasers. In South Carolina, a police officer shoots a suspect in the back. The officer claimed the suspect was trying to take his taser. In Oklahoma, an officer mistook his gun for a taser in another fatal encounter.
The use of tasers is a $150 million a year business, but do they do anything?
Miguel Marquez has tonight's money and power.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What are you wearing here on your head?
SERGEANT RORY DEROCCO, DANBURY POLICE DEPARTMENT: We're in the Taser Axon Flex.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Sergeant Rory DeRocco, 27 years with the Danbury police both the department and DeRocco have used body cameras for year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're reporting it off the car.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which do you prefer?
MARQUEZ (on camera): I prefer the on-officer camera. The Axon Flex, it definitely gives more of an officer's perspective.
(voice-over): Despite looking a little like the terminator he said the head mounted camera is best seeing everything the officer sees unlike a camera in a vehicle or even one attached to the chest.
DEROCCO: It captures above the dash, above the steering wheel.
MARQUEZ (on camera): Anywhere you're looking.
DEROCCO: Anywhere I'm looking.
MARQUEZ: If I'm standing here this way.
DEROCCO: If I'm turning my head this way, I capture the cameraman.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): North Charleston, he says, a textbook case of why body cameras are so critical.
(on camera): You have car video like we're speak being right here. Ad then a passer by picks up video somewhere in the park and all that stuff in between is missing. How critical is the information that that little camera picks up to investigations?
DEROCCO: Well, it's very critical because it gets from the time you arrive at the scene all the way through.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): DeRocco, a consultant for Taser International, which makes the camera along with its most well-known product.
Danbury Sergeant Michael George Julos (ph) also a sergeant a taser consultant says what he saw in North Charleston was a taser deployment missing its mark possibly because Officer Michael Slager and Walter Scott were in close physical proximity maybe even scuffling.
(on camera): You like to keep, what, four feet away.
OFFICER: We like to have four-foot zone between us --
MARQUEZ: But if it becomes heated and the person comes in, how do -- how do you react with taser?
OFFICER: The officer has to protect his vitals.
MARQUEZ: This person is going for your taser at the same time.
OFFICER: Presumably. If that were the case I want to create more distance. But if I had to deploy, I want to attack a large muscle group.
MARQUEZ: Coming in low.
OFFICER: I would shoot your thigh.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Despite Officer Michael Slager passing taser training multiple times, George Julos (ph) says a taser in a real incident isn't easy, especially in close quarters.
This is what a taser hitting its mark sounds like.
And when I want misses.
OFFICER: See how much louder it gets.
MARQUEZ: Tools of the trade all requiring constant training for when and how to use them in the heat of the moment.
MARQUEZ: Now, a little show and tell. This is a deployed taser one we used up there with Danbury, Connecticut police. Both of these probes have to hit the person in large muscle --
BURNETT: They are basically like needles.
MARQUEZ: They're push hooks.
BURNETT: Push hooks, OK.
MARQUEZ: The other thing is this is about 25 feet long. It rips very easily. You can rip right in pieces. And if there is a tussle or scuffle between individuals, it can go wrong.
BURNETT: Wow. That's what it looks like some kind watch needle or fish hook. That's what goes in your skin.
MARQUEZ: It's very serious stuff, you wouldn't want that stuck on, to have a current going to those.
BURNETT: No. All right. Thank you very much. Pretty incredible. I've never seen one of those up close before.
Miguel, thank you for that.
And next, pot -- does it cure anything?
[19:57:24] BURNETT: More and more Americans favor legalizing marijuana for medical use. But does pot cure anything?
Here's Sanjay Gupta.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Oxford, Mississippi, middle of the campus of Ole Miss. This was our first visit here two years ago, spring of 2013.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't remember the last time we actually grew more than an acres.
GUPTA: Since the 1970 this field is the only place in the United States where scientists can get marijuana to dispense and research. The reason: to control the quality and distribution all the way from the soil to the study.
Mahmoud ElSohly is the farm's director.
MAHMOUD ELSOHLY, MARIJUANA RESEARCH: We are not growing because there's not much demand or the material that we already have.
GUPTA (on camera): Why isn't there more demand?
ELSOHLY: No research protocols, no research proposals, no requirements for the material.
GUPTA (voice-over): But that was then. This is now.
Nearly two years later, there is acre upon acre of marijuana. Ever wonder what a revolution looks like?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That's pretty incredible. I mean, Sanjay, now, they can't seem to grow enough.
GUPTA: They've increased their production 30 fold, Erin. It's pretty extraordinary. What's particularly extraordinary you heard the Dr. ElSohly say there's been no research, no research requests and, all of a sudden, in anticipation of scientific revolution, they are just greatly expanding their production. They anticipate studies on all sorts of things from cancer, epilepsy, Alzheimer's, pain, just to name a few.
It's really remarkable and remarkable to see mainstream scientists who just a couple of years ago were really, really reluctant to even dip a toe into this heavily stigmatized world. They're now diving head first to try and do some of this research. So, it is really changing, Erin.
BURNETT: You mentioned cancer, glaucoma. You also mentioned Alzheimer's. And I know that marijuana is being used in some places now to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer's. Is it making a difference, pot?
GUPTA: If you look at treating the symptoms as you say of Alzheimer's, there's a population of people doing this now in several states. It's to treat the agitation that sometimes comes with Alzheimer's, some of the insomnia, difficulty in sleeping.
We haven't seen a significant impact on memory overall. Where the research is going and this is in the labs that are getting some of their marijuana again from that farm you just saw, they are looking at using some compounds from marijuana to try and prevent the plaques that caused Alzheimer's in your brain, prevent those plaques from growing.
And you know, talking to these researchers at a few of these Alzheimer's Institutes, it's early but it's very promising.
BURNETT: Sanjay, thank you so much.
GUPTA: You got it, Erin. Thank you.
BURNETT: Sanjay's "Weed 3" is on Sunday at 9:00.
Anderson is next.